Hastings family’s fundraising battle for live-saving procedure

The Lee family
The Lee family

The family of a woman who suffered a stroke at the age of only 36 are battling to raise £20,000 for an operation that could potentially save her life.

Last July, Leeann Lee, of The Ridge, lost the use of the right side of her body due to the stroke brought on by a blood clot.

The doctors and nurses have been nothing but supportive and my wife and I thank them for everything they have done. But this decision made at a high level to save money at the expense of people’s lives is appalling.

Rob Lee

Her husband, Rob, said: “She couldn’t walk, talk or even grip a pen. At the time our daughter was only seven months old and Leeann couldn’t do anything with her nor our son.

“It was a very scary time for all of us. After investigations at the hospital it was discovered she had a hole in the heart through which a blood clot had escaped, worked its way around her body before getting lodged in her brain and causing a blockage, depriving that area of blood and oxygen.

“The hole, known as a Patent Foramen Ovale, had been there since birth but was not discovered earlier. Other than the hole in her heart Leeann is very fit and active and none of the other typical causes of stroke were present leaving the hole as the only possible cause.

“Leeann has done fantastically well to recover but really has to concentrate in order to lift up her right leg and now has trouble with her memory. She also gets tired easily.”

A Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) is a hole between the left and right atria (upper chambers) of the heart. This hole exists in everyone before birth, but most often closes shortly after being born.

Rob added consultants told him they could not fix the hole because NHS England had withdrawn all funding for such operations.

He said: “Enquiries were made and letters written to the Home Secretary and the Health Secretary but staggeringly they said the decision regarding funding stands and the operation can’t go ahead on the NHS.

“This is an operation that would prevent further strokes and potentially save Leeann’s life.

“Without NHS support the operation can only go ahead privately at a cost of around £20,000, which we absolutely don’t have, hence the need to raise money.

“The doctors and nurses have been nothing but supportive and my wife and I thank them for everything they have done.

“But this decision made at a high level to save money at the expense of people’s lives is appalling.

“Any assistance anyone can give would be hugely appreciated. Eventually we hope to have enough to get my wife the operation so she can live free from the worry of having another stroke.”

A spokeswoman for NHS England said: “NHS England recently carried out a two-year evaluation of the effectiveness of Patent Foramen Ovale for the Prevention of Recurrent Stroke. The evaluation was carried out because there was not enough evidence to demonstrate the treatment is effective.

“The data collected is now being analysed and a recommendation based on the results is expected by the end of the year.

“This evaluation is part of a programme introduced by NHS England in 2014 called ‘Commissioning through Evaluation’, which gathers more data on the effectives of services or treatments which are not currently routinely funded by the NHS, but which may show significant promise as a future treatment.

“If the evidence supports this treatment it will then be considered by NHS England’s Clinical Priorities Advisory Group.”

To donate towards the Lee family’s cause visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/rk-lee.

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