A teenage girl with a hole in her heart has been told she cannot have an operation to fix it on the NHS – unless she has a HEART ATTACK.
Carla, who regularly suffers palpitations and breathlessness, fears she could “drop dead” before she gets the procedure.
“I’m just going to be sitting around waiting for something bad to happen,” she said.
“I was really shocked when they told me, when we went for the meeting I thought the specialist was going to give me a date for the operation not tell me I couldn’t have it.
“I can feel my health going downhill fast and have been off work for two months.
“The NHS will only fund it if I have a heart attack or a stroke. That could leave long term damage, or even be life threatening.
“I’m worried I may drop dead if I exercise or do anything too strenuous. I’m starting to lose faith in doctors, it is upsetting. I can’t get on with normal life.”
Carla, from Abbeydale, Glos., developed problems three years ago when doctors found a small hole in her heart during a routine check-up.
She was referred back and forth between doctors, and even discharged, before she was eventually seen by a consultant.
But despite suffering bouts of breathlessness, palpitations and headaches, she was told there was nothing the NHS could do.
Cardiologists advised Carla – an NHS apprentice in graphics and multi-media – that a private procedure was the only way to guarantee her health, at a minimum price of #16,000.
She needs to undergo a ‘closure of a patent foramen ovale’, where a catheter is used to place a permanent implant in her heart which will close the hole.
Carla is already believed to be suffering ‘mini’ strokes, but such an episode would have to be classed as ‘major’ before she will be given the operation on the NHS.
The only treatment she has received so far is blood-thinning aspirin.
She said: “My consultant said to me because of my age there are no studies around about the effects of a hole in the heart on my age group.
“He said all the symptoms and problems are not proven to have been caused by that so there is no information to back up funding an operation.
“Even though he believes my symptoms have been caused by it and an operation will help me greatly.
“It’s already making a massive difference to me I can’t work, everytime I exercise I feel like someone is punching me in the chest and I’ve had so many knock backs I’m on anti-depressants now.”
Carla has written to her local MP in the hope he will back her cause and is now also fundraising to help collect the money she needs for the procedure privately.
An NHS England (Bath, Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire) spokesperson said: “Patent Foramen Ovale closure [Carla's defect] is not routinely commissioned by the NHS and would only be considered if the case is deemed exceptional by the individual’s clinician. NHS England have not received an application regarding this case.
“This procedure is part of the Commissioning through Evaluation scheme which is looking at commissioning this procedure as part of a time-limited evaluation exercise.
“A decision on which providers will offer this will be made later this autumn.”