Sunken chest syndrome: Girl's hopes for surgery as NHS reviews funding

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image copyrightSarah Grierson
image captionAutumn, who used to be a county level runner, hopes the surgery will improve her life

A 14-year-old living with a condition that causes her heart and lungs to be crushed has been offered hope after the NHS agreed to review surgery funding.

Autumn Bradley, from Guisborough, has pectus excavatum, known as sunken chest syndrome, which causes her ribcage to bend in over at the sternum.

Surgery was offered in England but in February 2019 funding was stopped due to insufficient evidence over benefits.

The keen athlete said if approved it would "improve" children's lives.

Autumn's mother, Sarah Grierson, said her daughter was one of about 50 people she knew of who were in the same situation with severe cases.

"It's incredibly painful for them. Autumn can't actually physically cough. All these kids who are missing out on time at school, missing out on sport, they can't see their friends, their lives have just been completely taken over by this.

"I just hope that the people conducting the review think carefully that it's children's lives, not just a piece of paper, it's not just the cost of an operation."

Mrs Grierson told the BBC there were around one in 400 people living in the UK with a variant of the condition, although in most cases people have a small dip in their chest.

"For a very small number of people, of which Autumn is one, it becomes so, so deep, that it actually crushes the lungs and crushes the heart.

"In Autumn's case, her ribcage at the bottom of the sternum is 2.5cm (0.9ins) away from her spine, that is how close it is.

"To see her struggle so much lately has been unreal.

"She has gone from being an incredibly good athlete to the point where now, just standing up in the kitchen doing some baking with me, she starts to feel dizzy and has to sit down. "

image copyrightSarah Grierson
image captionAutumn's mum Sarah says its difficult to see her 14-year-old daughter struggle when surgery could help

Autumn, who has had to wear a back brace, said she felt "so thankful" to everyone who has tried to make children's lives better.

"It will make us so much more happy and it will improve our lives so much," she added.

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland's Conservative MP, Simon Clarke, said NHS England had written to him to confirm a review for "severe sufferers" was under way.

"It's not just a paper exercise, I think it really is likely to lead to a new policy," he said.

"We are talking something within the next 12 to 18 months and that would be fantastic, not just for Autumn but crucially for the dozens of young people each year who present with conditions comparable with her's."

An NHS north east spokesperson said: "Commissioning decisions about surgery and other treatments on the NHS are based on advice from doctors and are kept under constant review.

"The latest medical evidence for this procedure is currently being considered."

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