Tuesday, 13 February 2018

A letter to Dr. Sullivan


Dr. Sullivan,

We were probably just another couple to you; nothing remarkable about us. But you changed our lives. You saved our daughter.

We had been seen by a Cardiologist in Liverpool the week before, after being given a bleak prognosis my Mam sought advice from Dr. Maite Tome (who we'd known for years as my Brothers consultant) who thought a colleague of hers was currently treating a patient with the same condition as our unborn daughter and was happy to refer us. I'm so grateful to her for doing so because exactly a week later we were at your clinic for an appointment that would change our lives.

We were called in for a Fetal ECHO, a few moment later a gentleman walked in but was told: "Ian's taking this one". The next person to walk in was you, you introduced yourself and asked if we were friends of Maite's. From the way you spoke so softly, wearing a lab coat and your stethoscope around your neck - I knew I was going to like you. We'd already had the worst possible news in Liverpool, you couldn't possibly have said anything worse that day.

When the ECHO was over, you took us into a counseling room nearby. You seemed quite intrigued by my Brothers heart condition and his treatment, the first few minutes were spent discussing him.

Then it was time to discuss our baby. You started with "Well we agree broadly with Liverpool" and I have to admit, my heart sank a little at this point. But we listened, you made suggestions for her treatment, made warnings of the potential complications, further interventions which may be required and politely answered our absurd questions. To be fair, everything you told us in that meeting has happened. Even down to needing Martha needing a pacemaker!

The highlight for me was when I asked you if our daughter would enjoy a reasonable quality of life, would she be able to join in and play with her siblings. You seemed so insulted and scoffed "Well I'd like to think my Surgeons would give her that, yes!"

You also warned us that there was a possibility that she would have DiGeorge Syndrome, that you couldn't find her thymus gland during the scan which would compromise her immune system. Thankfully, Genetic testing after her birth proved she didn't have any chromosomal abnormalities.

We set the wheels in motion for transferring our care to you. I knew I needed to discuss the appointment with Mark, but deep down I didn't have any hesitations that I could put my daughter's life in your hands.

Her journey hasn't been easy, we've had days where we were convinced we were losing her but our team at GOSH have always pulled out all the stops and given her all the support she needs while she rests or takes gigantic leaps on her path to recovery. Even though we rarely saw you at outpatients appointment or during any of her admissions, knowing you were there in the background overseeing her case was a massive weight off our shoulders.

The last time we saw you was January 2017 and you were really pleased with Martha's progress from her 5th Open Heart Surgery some 6 weeks before. You even said that Victor Tsang had been happy with how well surgery had gone. We thanked you for rooting for her and for putting her forward for surgery. I had no idea you were retiring a few months later.

We met Dr. Starling in October and are glad to report that from a cardiac point of view, Martha is enjoying a period of stability. I don't know how long this will last, hopefully for the whole of 2018. It does make me a little anxious to think you won't be there to guide us if it turns out her condition has worsened. But I know that I have to trust the team and their combined experience.

To us, you are a Hero. You've given us almost 5 years with our little girl when we'd almost given up hope for her safe arrival.

You've undoubtedly saved the lives of thousands of other children during your career, some possibly even more complex than Martha's case. I hope you get to enjoy your retirement, that you know the difference you've made to the lives of families like ours.

Forever grateful,
Martha Grace's Mammi & Daddy
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