OUR NHS is made up of heroes who pull together – often in life-or- death situations.
One person who knows this all too well is Sun columnist Ulrika Jonsson, whose daughter Bo, now 21, was born with a heart defect.
She is backing calls to nominate Professor Sir Shakeel “Shak” Qureshi, the consultant paediatric cardiologist who looked after her and Bo, for a Sun Who Cares Wins Award.
And Emma Pietras speaks to mum Heidi Butterfill, whose son’s life was saved in dramatic circumstances by Professor Qureshi and the team at Evelina London Children’s Hospital.
She has put forward the professor and his colleagues for the Best Team award.
THE first time I met Shak Qureshi was in September 2000, when the baby girl growing in my stomach had been diagnosed with a congenital heart defect called double inlet left ventricle.
Nominate your NHS hero here
I was seven months’ pregnant and my unborn child had originally been wrongly diagnosed with a condition that was not compatible with life at another hospital, so I asked for a new referral.
I firmly believe fate brought Shak into our lives. There he was, a small man with a white moustache, big, kind eyes and a warm smile.
I was terrified about what lay ahead but he explained things in supersimple terms and ensured I had a counsellor in the room during our long and difficult conversation.
His gentle, unimposing manner told me I wanted him to be my daughter’s cardiologist.
Despite his enormous brain, Shak keeps the language simple and always ensures you understand what he is explaining.
I had to ask him some tough questions and he had to give me some tough answers, but he did it in a compassionate way. He’s like the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.
Shak has cared for Bo as her consultant all her life. She’s had one closed-heart operation and two open-heart operations. Shak did not perform these but he handled all her care running up to and beyond her interventions.
It was a terrifying time as a mother – added to which I was a single mother.
He always checked on me. He knew if I couldn’t function, no one could look after Bo. Bo absolutely loves him, and his face lights up when he sees her. The bond between them is extraordinary.
We became so close to him he attended her christening when she was six months old and came to our house for her first birthday party.
For such a small man, he really does make big things happen.
The saddest moment for us was when Bo turned 18 and she had to carry on her treatment in adult care – which meant swapping consultants.
But when we attend appointments we still make a point of catching up with Shak. Apart from his great sense of humanity, humility and personable approach is that he never stops working. He travels the world teaching and lecturing when it would be far easier for him to just do his job and go home.
He is the most dedicated man I’ve ever encountered. There has been talk of his retirement but he never seems to leave. He always finds a good excuse to stay.
For such a small man, he really does make big things happen.
Who Cares Wins Awards
THE Sun’s Who Cares Wins Awards is back – and we need YOU to nominate your health heroes.
Our annual awards, in partnership with NHS Charities Together, honour the extraordinary people that keep our health service running, from cleaners to porters, nurses to doctors and paramedics.
And this year we have another extra special awards night planned.
So if there is someone who has helped you or your family who deserves recognition for their incredible work, this is your chance to say thank you.
Nominations should be for help you have received in the past 12 months, unless it is for an individual’s hard work over many years.
The closing date for entries is July 12 this year.
The categories are:
- Best Doctor – an NHS doctor – GP, hospital doctor or consultant
- Best Midwife – an NHS midwife who has provided great care for a woman or her baby
- Best Team – any NHS or healthcare team on the frontline and behind the scenes that has gone above and beyond the call of duty
- Best Nurse – an NHS nurse in any ﬁeld
- Best Health Charity – a health charity which has helped you or a loved one
- Unsung Hero – do you know a friend or a person who gives up their time to volunteer at a health charity, hospital, hospice or similar?
- Young Hero – it could be a carer or a campaigner or something else. Open to anyone under the age of 18
- Mental Health Hero – for signiﬁcant contribution to mental health
- 999 Hero – An emergency services worker, team or member of the public performed an emergency rescue, operation or similar
‘Save his life’
HEIDI Butterfill’s 14-year-old son Oliver suffered a cardiac arrest following an extremely rare complication during a routine heart operation this year.
A team of medics at Evelina London Children’s Hospital performed CPR and used a defibrillator to save his life.
Thanks to their skills and expertise, Oliver is now back at school – and even playing cricket for his local team.
Mum-of-three Heidi says countless staff were involved in saving her son’s life and nursing him back to health. She has put them all forward for the Best Team gong for our Who Cares Wins awards.
Heidi, 44, from Bromley, South London, says: “We can’t thank the staff enough. What happened to us was every parent’s worst nightmare, but he was in the very best hands.”
And she is urging others to nominate their own healthcare heroes.
Oliver was diagnosed with a bicuspid aortic heart valve, a genetic condition where his aortic valve has two chambers, rather than three.
Marketing and events manager Heidi and husband James, 45, an assistant college principal, were told their son would need an op to widen his heart valve to help deliver the flow of blood.
‘They are superheroes’
Oliver’s condition was regularly monitored and, in January, his parents were told the valve was so narrow and constricting blood flow he needed surgery.
In March, he underwent a procedure known as a balloon aortic valvuloplasty (BAV), which involves inserting a catheter to stretch the aortic valve.
It was carried out by consultant paediatric cardiologist Professor Shakeel Qureshi, who was this year knighted in the New Year’s Honours for his work across more than three decades.
But Oliver experienced a ventricular tachycardia cardiac arrest, where the heart beats out of rhythm.
Heidi – also mum to the couple’s sons Finley, ten, and five-year-old Raffy – says: “People have this operation all the time. It’s just one of those very unfortunate circumstances.”
Following surgery, Oliver was placed in an induced coma in the hospital’s High Dependency Paediatric Intensive Care Unit.
The level of care they provided was amazing. They are real life superheroes.
Heidi says: “The level of care they provided was amazing. They are real life superheroes.”
Fiona Bickell, lead nurse for paediatric intensive care at Evelina, says: “We are so pleased Oliver has made a full recovery and we are delighted to be nominated.”
Professor Qureshi says: “The whole team is very flattered to be nominated. I carried out the operation but the whole team worked to get Oliver well again.
“I am a cricket fan, like Oliver, and we had some good chats about it. It is great to hear he is playing again.”