11-year-old waiting for spinal surgery delivers personal letter to Taoiseach

Sophie Brennan has to wear a body brace at night to limit the extent of spinal curving
11-year-old waiting for spinal surgery delivers personal letter to Taoiseach

Sophie Brennan outside the Department of An Taoiseach, hand delivering a letter to raise awareness about waiting lists. 

An 11-year-old Dublin girl undertook a special mission on Tuesday to hand deliver a letter to the Taoiseach's office seeking action on scoliosis waiting lists.

The appeal by Sophie Brennan from Loughlinstown in Dublin comes as the number of children across the country waiting for critical spinal surgery now exceeds 200.

A further 6,902 children are waiting for a first appointment to see an orthopaedic specialist, with 2,900 children waiting more than a year.

Accompanied by her mum Sam, dad Eric, and brother Tyler, Sophie attended Government Buildings on Tuesday morning to personally deliver her call to action to the Taoiseach’s office.

Sophie, who has a rare condition called 22Q deletion syndrome, was diagnosed with scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, in 2017 and has been waiting since then for the life-changing surgery.

Her mum, Sam, said the spinal curvature has worsened in that time and that Sophie can no longer dance or play GAA.

She has to wear a body brace at night to try to hold the spine and limit the extent of the spine curving.

“She loves to dance and used to do hip-hop, and loved to play GAA but had to stop both two years ago. All physical activity has stopped. 

"The surgery would mean a huge change for Sophie, both physically and mentally,” her mum said.

Mrs Brennan said there were many other Sophies out there waiting for critical spinal surgery and that waiting lists had now reached crisis point.

Sophie wrote the letter to the Taoiseach herself. She asked ‘when can I have my surgery?’ 

"She asked why are children waiting so long for this surgery and she asked the Taoiseach can he not change the waiting lists for all children in Ireland,” she explained.

“We did this to help other families and other children and hopefully no other family has to go as public as we have had to and that there is change,” she added.

The Scoliosis Advocacy Network said waiting lists for surgery existed pre-Covid-19 but that waiting times were compounded by the pandemic and that further delays presented greater risks for children left on waiting lists.

“This year has seen a reduction in the number of completed surgeries; around 60 surgeries less compared to last year,” Claire Cahill from the advocacy group said.

Children should not wait more than four months for scoliosis surgery but many were waiting years for the life-changing surgery and that delay brought with it risks, the group said. 

Ms Cahill said:

The longer children are waiting for care the greater the chance that they will require more complex and possibly additional or more invasive surgery.” 

More capacity must be made available to deal with the crisis, the advocacy group said, adding that a targeted initiative is also needed to manage the growing waiting list for an outpatient appointment.

It is time for action, Ms Cahill said, adding that requests for meetings with the Health Minister had fallen on deaf ears and that families felt “ignored” by the lack of meaningful engagement to date.

More in this section