Mia-Jolie’s life was saved by the Downe

Mia-Jolie’s life was saved by the Downe

14 October 2020

AN Ardglass father has called on health chiefs to overturn the decision not to restore emergency services at the Downe Hospital next week as planned.

Neil Watson says it is vital that people across the district have access to such a service which provides a lifeline, especially to those living in rural areas. He also wants to see additional hospital services delivered locally.

In January 2019, he rushed his daughter, Mia-Jolie, to the hospital after she took a bad reaction to something, which resulted in her tongue starting to swell. 

She was also struggling to breathe and while she was subsequently transferred to the Ulster Hospital, her dad is convinced that had he bypassed the Downe and went straight to Dundonald his daughter would not be alive today.

Everything in the family household was normal on January 14 — the day before Neil’s birthday — when his daughter took ill as she was getting ready for bed. Up until this point, Mia-Jolie had always enjoyed good health but she knew something was wrong and went to her parents in the living room.

Her face was swollen and her mum, Sarah, knew immediately that she was experiencing some kind of allergic reaction. Within minutes, the St Colman’s High and Sixth Form College student was struggling to breathe.

With her parents worried about what was happening, her mum wanted to call an ambulance but Neil decided they could not afford to wait and drove his daughter to the Downe.

“I knew Mia-Jolie could not wait for an ambulance given her condition,” her father said. “It was 11pm on a Sunday night and while my wife told me the hospital was closed for emergencies I said I was going. I am so glad that I did.

“I knew someone there could help my daughter and the drive from our home to the Downe was the scariest of my life. Mia-Jolie was struggling for breath and at the roundabout outside the hospital I thought she had stopped breathing.”

Neil said his daughter was seen by a doctor when they arrived who was able to calm her down and treated her with an EpiPen. 

Staff at the Downe then rang for an ambulance to take her to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald with Neil following behind in his car as he had no way of getting back to Ardglass, stopping in Killyleagh to collect my dad on the way.

“To my surprise, while the ambulance left before me, my dad and I reached the Ulster before Mia-Jolie which worried me greatly,” he explained.

Neil revealed that 20 minutes later the ambulance arrived with paramedics explaining that they had to stop en route as his daughter suffered a panic attack and had to be calmed as she was still struggling with her breathing.

At the Ulster, the father and daughter had to sit in a corridor until 6am until Mia-Jolie was transferred to a ward, with Neil praising hospital staff for their care and attention.

sFollowing her discharge, the schoolgirl experienced trouble with her breathing on several other occasions which has been linked to an allergic reaction to cat hair or grass.

Mia-Jolie is now on medication and her father said he has no doubt that had he not taken her to the Downe, she may not be alive today.

“In January last year my wife and I had no idea what was happening and my first instinct was to take my daughter straight to the Downe. I am so glad that I did and am grateful to the hospital staff for all that they did,” he continued.

“I am in no doubt that Mia-Jolie would not have made it to the Ulster had we waited on an ambulance given the issues she was having with her breathing.”

Neil said he was concerned at last week’s news that emergency services will not be returning to the Downe Hospital next Monday as planned. He said such a service provided locally is essential.

“We need an emergency service at the Downe along with key services. I had occasion to take one of my other daughters top the hospital recently and could not believe it when I was told that she had to go to the Ulster Hospital for a blood test,” he added.

“Having a hospital with an emergency department in our area is vital. We cannot do without it and so many people, especially those in outlying rural areas, need to know that it is there for them when they need it and that they are not faced with an ambulance journey to Belfast or Dundonald.”

Neil added: “When Mia-Jolie took ill my gut instinct was to take her to the Downe. It was the right call, one which I believe helped save her life. Having access to an emergency department at your local hospital literally save lives and this service must be reinstated immediately.”