Carla Maclean, 19, from Abbeydale in Gloucestershire, England was found to have a hole in her heart and has faced an agonizing wait for surgery since being diagnosed with the condition three years ago.
Despite suffering from breathlessness, palpitations and headaches, Carla has been refused an operation to fix it on the National Health Service (NHS) - unless she has a heart attack or stroke. She lives in constant fear of 'dropping dead' and 'not being able to get on with normal life.'
AdvertisementMs. Maclean, a computer graphics apprentice at NHS who has been remained off work for two months said: "I'm just going to be sitting around waiting for something bad to happen. 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."
The teenager added, "If I was younger or older, the NHS would do it. The NHS will only fund it if I have a heart attack or a stroke. That could leave long-term damage, or could even be life threatening."
Carla was advised by her Cardiologists that she needs a procedure called 'closure of a patent foramen ovale', where a catheter is used to place a permanent implant in her heart which will close the hole. They said that this was the only way to guarantee her health, at a minimum price of £16,000.
Ms. Maclean, has written to her local medical practitioner in the hope of trying to raise the necessary funds to have the operation privately. She is believed to be suffering 'mini' strokes, but such an episode would have to be classified as 'major' before she is given the operation on the NHS. The only treatment she has received so far is blood-thinning aspirin.
Carla said, "My consultant said to me that because of my age there are no studies about the effects of a hole in the heart on my age group. All the symptoms and problems are not proven to have been caused by [the hole] so there is no information to back up funding an operation."
An NHS England spokesperson for Bath, Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire 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."
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