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Daily Record
Daily Record
Vivienne Aitken

Scots schoolboy begs Nicola Sturgeon to 'sort out' NHS and help end his pain as he waits for operation

A nine-year-old boy has begged Nicola Sturgeon to sort out the NHS and help to end his pain because he “can’t take it anymore”. Little Harvey Martin suffers from an agonising curvature on his spine that requires immediate medical intervention.

But he has been told by his doctors he will have to wait months for treatment due to lengthy waiting lists – despite the fact his organs are being slowly crushed.

His case was raised with the First Minister at Holyrood earlier this month. But he is still no further forward with an operation to end his pain, and so has issued a heartbreaking plea to the First Minister - who will leave office on Monday.

In a direct message, Harvey said: “Hello, Nicola Sturgeon, I’m Harvey Martin. I’ve been on the waiting list from August for an operation on my spine. I can’t take it any more.

“I’m in pain constantly, every day. My mum and dad are worried sick about me. If there is anything you could do to help that would be very much appreciated.”

Harvey and his mum Natalie are pleading for help to the much-needed surgery (Ross Turpie/Daily Record)

Schoolboy Harvey suffers from neurofibromatosis, a genetic condition which causes growths on the nervous system. The growths have caused scoliosis on his spine and the curve is progressively getting worse.

He was diagnosed with scoliosis in 2020 and a year later his curve was measured at 39 degrees. But by August last year it had doubled in size to nearly 80 degrees.

And after a recent growth spurt his mum believes it has increased again. The curve has meant his fourth and fifth ribs are close to the spinal cord so a lot of the pain he is experiencing is coming from the back of his ribcage, where pressure is being applied to his internal organs.

The delays in his treatment were raised at First Minister’s Questions almost three weeks ago but he is still no nearer getting his surgery. He said Sturgeon “needs to do something about this”.

He added: “We can’t be waiting any longer. It is not fair I am nine years old and have to suffer pain every day. I really feel something needs to be done. I am cross with her [Sturgeon] because she’s not doing as much as she should be doing. I am really annoyed with her.”

Celtic fan Harvey just longs to be pain free and be able to return to his favourite hobbies. He said: “It stops me from doing my swimming lessons and going to school. I have not been able to go to school or just be myself really.

Harvey has appealed directly to outgoing FM Nicola Sturgeon (Andy Buchanan/PA Wire)

"I can’t do as much as on a normal day and the pain is driving me crazy. I love football. I am in the school team. I am a striker but I just go and watch them now. It gets me down, makes me sad because I can’t do anything just now.”

Harvey’s parents fear that without his op soon some of the damage being done to his body may be irreversible. Mum Natalie, 44, and husband Paul, 51, spend every day hoping nothing catastrophic will happen.

Harvey’s spine surgeon Dr Chris Adams has told his mum if Harvey develops pins and needles or if he had trouble with his bowels or urine she needs to phone an ambulance and get him straight to an emergency ward.

Natalie explained: “Everything is being pushed up. It is close to his heart, his kidneys, his liver and his lungs. Harvey is also waiting to go to see a respiratory consultant because he has a recurring cough.

“We think the cough is due to the position of his ribs. Everyday it is just fingers crossed that nothing happens. It is like a ticking time bomb. That has been the case since January and every day we are just hoping it won’t happen.”

Jackie Baillie has raised Harvey's case in parliament (Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

The couple had thought of raising money to send him for a private operation but Natalie said: “There is no time for that now. Harvey couldn’t travel abroad and Dr Adams is one of the top spinal consultants in Scotland.”

Harvey needs to have rods inserted in his spine and a bone graft to straighten his back. After surgery he won’t be able to walk for two to three months. It will take a full year to recover. But his condition is deteriorating and he is having to take increasing amounts of time away from school.

Natalie said: “He was off school for two weeks because he just couldn’t tolerate his pain, he wasn’t sleeping and he was physically sick on Monday with the pain.”

He is now spending most of his time in his wheelchair and even the 15-minute journey in the car from his home in Wemyss Bay to school in Largs causes him real discomfort. Longer trips are off the cards.

Natalie said: “We have family in Troon but we can’t even make that journey in the car and it is only an hour away. He was crying a couple of weeks ago and said ‘I just want to be normal. I am so tired mum, I am just so fed up waking up every day in constant pain’.

“Since Christmas the pain has really intensified. It is horrible to watch your son not sleeping, not eating, in constant pain crying. It’s unbearable.” And she admitted: “My family is at breaking point.”

Harvey, with mum Natalie and little sister Emilia (Ross Turpie/Daily Record)

Natalie has emailed Sturgeon again but has not yet received a response, although the Scottish Government has asked her to sign consent forms in order that they can investigate it further with NHS Lothian. The operation will be performed at Edinburgh’s children’s hospital.

But Natalie is angry at the time he has waited when the government waiting time policy is there should be no more than 12 weeks from a decision to treat to the treatment beginning.

She said: “If Harvey had had his operation within 12 weeks his curve would not be the size it is at now. He would be in recovery now. We were originally told he would have his operation in four to six weeks then we got another letter saying it would be up to 12 weeks but we are now heading for eight months.

"The last time I heard he was fifth on the waiting list but there have been so many cancellations he could be waiting another five months. We don’t expect Harvey to be put in front of other people before him on the waiting list but I do think it is absolutely scandalous that he has waited so long.”

Harvey's operation – whenever that might be – will take place here (Callum Moffat/Daily Record)

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman said: “We raised Harvey Martin’s case at First Minister’s Questions after his consultant, Dr Chris Adams, spoke out about the horrendous impact that the NHS crisis is having on patients. The First Minister herself said she would look into the case.

"Two weeks on and nothing has happened. It is heartbreaking that Harvey, who is just nine years old, now feels that he needs to appeal directly to Nicola Sturgeon to intervene and relieve him from this pain."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We apologise to Harvey and his family for the long wait he has faced and are sorry to hear of the pain and discomfort he is experiencing. We are speaking to NHS Lothian on Harvey’s behalf and are seeking urgent assurances on his care.

“We remain focussed on working with NHS Boards to end long waits, which have been exacerbated by the impacts of the global pandemic. We know challenges remain and some people continue to wait too long for treatment but we are determined to continue to provide support to drive improvements across our health service.”

Dr Tracey Gillies, Medical Director, NHS Lothian, said: “Harvey’s surgeon has been in regular communication with his family and a follow-up call has already been arranged with them for later this month. Patients are listed for operations based on clinical need and prioritisation, however, all patients remain under constant review.

"We would like to apologise to patients who are waiting for procedures for longer than they would have liked.”

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