Sunken chest syndrome: Stranger pays for teenager’s surgery

Sunken chest syndrome: Stranger pays for teenager’s surgery

Image source, Sarah Grierson
Image caption,

Autumn, who used to be a county level runner, returned to school on Monday

A teenager is recovering from life-changing surgery to stop her heart and lungs from being crushed after a stranger stepped forward to pay for it.

Autumn Bradley, 15, was diagnosed with pectus excavatum, known as sunken chest syndrome, which caused her ribcage to bend inwards at the sternum.

NHS surgery had been available in England but funding stopped in 2019.

Autumn’s mother Sarah Grierson said she hoped an ongoing review would reverse that decision.

The teenager, from Guisborough near Redcar, had been a keen athlete and ran at county level but then struggled to blow up a balloon as her condition deteriorated.

It meant her ribcage at the bottom of the sternum was 2.5cm (0.9in) away from her spine.

Image source, Sarah Grierson
Image caption,

Autumn’s condition meant she was home-schooled for 18 months

The operation, which cost several thousand pounds, took place at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough at the end of September.

It was paid for by a private donor from the Isle of Man, who read about Autumn’s plight.

“I just sat on that phone call and I just burst out crying when I found out,” Mrs Grierson said.

“I told Autumn what had happened and she was totally speechless.

“All that I ever wanted was for my daughter to be well again and for someone who I have never met to offer this to me like that, the generosity was just so overwhelming.”

Image source, Sarah Grierson
Image caption,

Autumn’s mother Sarah Grierson wants the NHS to approve funding for surgery for children

While the operation was a success, Autumn encountered complications afterwards, including a lung collapsing twice.

“We came incredibly close to losing her – it was horrific,” her mum told BBC Tees presenter Gary Philipson.

“She is doing so much better and as much as we had gone through all of that, I do believe that if she had not had this surgery now we would have lost her.”

Autumn returned to school for the first time in 18 months on Monday, although she continues to recover.

‘Fitter and stronger’

Mrs Grierson said she hoped data from her daughter’s recovery would form part of an ongoing review into NHS funding for the surgery, which was stopped due to insufficient evidence of benefits.

“If anything good comes out of this, I want the NHS to overturn that decision and make this available for kids,” she added.

“If we hadn’t have waited until she was 15 we wouldn’t have had all the problems that she had, because she would have been fitter and stronger.”

An NHS spokesperson said: “Commissioning decisions about surgery and other treatments on the NHS are based on advice from doctors and are kept under constant review.

“The latest medical evidence for this procedure is currently being considered.”

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