Fundraising efforts enable complex operations to be undertaken regularly

Stephen Galloway and mum Samantha Muncie. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Stephen Galloway and mum Samantha Muncie. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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IT has been caring for children and young people in the Lothians and beyond for more than 150 years, and performs a range of lifesaving surgery every year.

But many of the vital procedures carried out at the Sick Kids hospital would not be possible without support and funding from the Sick Kids Friends Foundation (SKFF), which the Evening News has joined forces with to mark the charity’s 20th anniversary this year.

Since it was founded in December 1992, the SKFF has smashed targets and raised £18 million for the Sick Kids and related children’s healthcare centres – £14m of which was raised in the last decade.

Father-of-three Thanos Tsirikos, a spinal surgeon at the Sick Kids, said the foundation had provided two pieces of lifesaving equipment for his team.

A specialist X-ray image intensifier and a spinal surgery bed were purchased at a cost of more than £100,000 and have been used to improve the lives of countless youngsters over the years at the Sick Kids, home to Scotland’s centre for patients aged up to 17 with spinal deformities.

The image intensifier allows surgeons to monitor the positions of their instruments while performing surgery, cutting the risks of procedures which could lead to paralysis or even death if something goes wrong.

The bed, which has been specially designed for spinal surgery, includes a platform which allows surgeons to monitor patients more successfully while they are under the knife, again making surgery safer and reducing the risk of complications.

The essential pieces of kit have allowed the team to drastically increase the number of patients they treat.

Mr Tsirikos said: “We didn’t have the specialist bed or the image intensifier before the Friends bought them for us.

“Before then we just had a standard surgical bed and we were using an image intensifier that covered all the theatres. Now we have one just for us and it’s state-of-the-art.

“We perform dramatic and difficult surgery which is very risky. The patient could be paralysed with no function from the waist down, or if we hit the aorta they could bleed to death.”

He added: “You go on these journeys with patients and we do become part of a family. We have been seeing each other for years in some cases. We should never be treating any patient different to how you would treat your own family.”

Mr Tsirikos and his team now carry out 250 operations a year, and one of the patients to benefit is Nicole Page, 13, from Bathgate, who underwent spinal surgery earlier this year to correct a “significant” curve in her spine.

The 60-degree curve is now straight, which has resulted in reduction in pain and corrected what Mr Tsirikos described as a “significant cosmetic deformity”.

He said: “Nicole’s done really well – her spine is now nice and straight. She’s now in the recovery stage and, five weeks after surgery, she looks back to normal. She’s going to school, she can’t do sport or PE but once her spine has healed, she’ll be able to return to normal activity.”

Over the years, the SKFF has funded various equipment and machinery for the hospital, something which children cared for by Dr Paul Eunson, consultant paediatric neurologist, have also benefited from.

The 54-year-old, who lives in Portobello and won the Doctors Award at the Scottish Health Awards this month, has treated hundreds of children with conditions ranging from epilepsy to cerebral palsy since becoming a consultant at the Sick Kids 16 years ago.

“Over the years, the SKFF has contributed immensely to the work we have been able to do,” he said.

In fact, just last year, the foundation raised money to provide a CUSA brain tumour and cyst aspirator machine for the neurology department, and, in 2010, it provided funding for a sat nav brain surgery imaging system.

The Evening News is working with the SKFF to celebrate its achievements and help make the anniversary year its best yet.