Top surgeons work for free to give patients the chance of a better future

Already two young people’s lives have been transformed.

Jason Slevin (19), from Roscrea, Co Tipperary, was operated on for free at the Blackrock Clinic by orthopaedic surgeon Pat Kiely earlier this year.

Jason was in urgent need of spinal surgery to treat a severe back deformity.

He had the life-changing surgery after an anonymous donor and medical companies heard of his plight.

And it was revealed yesterday that a second girl, Bronwyn Kavanagh (12), from Ballyfermot in Dublin, had also received vital surgery for deteriorating curvature of the spine.

Mr Kiely, an orthopaedic surgeon, is spearheading the drive. He founded the charity Straight Ahead.

And he is hoping to complete the 10 operations for €150,000 – a fraction of the €500,000 they would normally cost. Three more children, who are currently on waiting lists for treatment at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children Crumlin, will now shortly receive the ultimate gift from the staff – and donations from the public.

The medics use the downtime at the hospital after the festive season when theatres and beds are not in full use.

The surgeons review the cases and select children depending on their condition and how long they have been waiting.

Mr Kiely said: “We won’t pick the most difficult cases because of the confined time we have – the normal difficult operations will be done in the normal way.”

“It’s amazing to see how generous people can be. We have done better in fundraising than we expected. Individuals have given donations, and medical companies have donated.

“People have got sponsorship for Ironman events; others have raised funds from coffee mornings.”

There are four orthopaedic surgeons in Crumlin. Other staff are giving up their holiday time and working for a nominal rate.

Jason, who is confined to a wheelchair, was so long on the waiting list for Tallaght Hospital that he could no longer sit up straight, and one of his lungs was affected.

Mr Kiely and his team operated on Jason for free at the Blackrock Clinic, thanks to an anonymous donor and a donation of spinal implants from a medical company.

The young man’s mother, Terena, said: “Jason has a new life. Before the operation he was in pain and could fall out of his chair. Now he can even use a head-rest and sit on the couch.

“Jason is also working at St Anne’s Centre in Roscrea every day, where he is involved in different activities.”

Sixth class student Bronwyn, who suffered from deteriorating curvature of the spine, underwent her operation in November and is hoping to be back disco dancing soon.

Her father, Thomas, said: “She was too far gone for a brace. Her condition was getting so bad that in order to roll over in bed she had to get out and get back again. “Bronwyn was on a waiting list in Crumlin but we did not know when she could have her operation.

“This has been life changing. We are so grateful to Straight Ahead.”

Mr Kiely said waiting times for spinal surgery had reduced since controversy over the delays two years ago.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said no patient was now waiting more than a year for surgery.

The hospital carried out 64 procedures last year and is on target to complete 58 in 2011, but 36 are on the list.

Businessman Shane Holland, chairman of Straight Ahead, said a combination of fundraising and donations had generated €80,000 for the charity but it needed to raise €150,000 to reach the 10-patient target.

“There are various events on in 2012, including a cycle from Dublin to Galway.