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Date: 25 June 2021

Time: 06:56

Lee and Aidan Harrigan

Dad of leukaemia patient thanks hospital

Story posted/last updated: 12 April 2021

The Haematology service at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) has been praised by the father of a patient for going ‘above and beyond’ to support their son during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aidan Harrigan, 16, was diagnosed with leukaemia in August 2020 and has been under the care of the Trust ever since.

Because of his cancer, Aidan’s parents, Lee and Jo Harrigan, weren’t sure he would be able to have the COVID-19 vaccine, but when they received the letter from their GP stating otherwise, they were ecstatic.

After confirming with Aidan’s consultant that it was safe for Aidan to have the Pfizer vaccine, they attempted to make an appointment at their GP.

Lee Harrigan said: “Unfortunately, our local practice only had AstraZeneca vaccines, which Aidan couldn’t have, and they weren’t sure when, or if, they would get any batches of Pfizer.

“On hearing this at his next appointment, Aidan’s clinical team put plans in place for him to receive the vaccine at the hospital’s vaccine hub at the same time as one of his haematology appointments at the Centre for Clinical Haematology.”

Aidan and his family were so relieved by the news but weren’t expecting such a positive experience when they eventually turned up.

Lee adds: “As well as having leukaemia, Aidan has Down’s Syndrome and is non-verbal, meaning he cannot communicate through words, but he is still very expressive which can sometimes be scary to people that don’t know him.

“The team knew he would struggle in the open plan room with people he did not know, despite social distancing, and that the injection might be frightening for him.

“It was evident when we arrived that the staff at the vaccine hub had been informed of Aidan’s situation by the Haematology team and on arrival we were ushered to a small quiet room and where the vaccination would take place.

“The nurse administering the vaccine suggested he approach Aidan from behind so he couldn’t see the needle, which was a perfect solution.

“It felt like he was royalty. They understood every single need and they wanted to remove any stress or confusion or anxiety, and they did it perfectly.

“It was as if they’d been doing this for years, but it had only been a few months, and it was so smoothly operated it was unreal.

“Even the staff who had not met him before had immense understanding of what he needed to get through the process of having the jab, so we’re immensely grateful.”

Lee and Jo later got their COVID-19 vaccine through their GP.

Aidan Harrigan

Aidan didn’t have the easiest start in life. He underwent heart surgery as a baby, before being adopted by Lee and Jo at 18 months old. He had limited mobility and his parents weren’t sure if he’d ever be able to walk.

Finding out Aidan had Leukaemia was understandably really difficult news for Lee and Jo, however, at 16, despite having Down’s syndrome and leukaemia, he is just like every other teenage boy says Lee: “He’s very sociable and loves going out, so he’s found COVID-19 and lockdown particularly difficult. Since he was diagnosed, he’s only seen people through a window.”

Making two to three trips to the hospital’s Centre for Clinical Haematology a week, Lee wanted to thank the team for the care they provide to Aidan, especially during a pandemic.

Lee added, “Thank you just isn’t enough, but all I can say is a massive thank you to the Haematology team, and the Young Persons’ Unit where he was first treated, for accepting Aidan for who he is.

“As a parent, it just makes you cry as it gives you hope and reassures you when they are doing everything they can to help.

“Especially with COVID-19, things could’ve been different, but every time we go you’re not just a patient, you are very important to them. They go above and beyond what you’d expect.”

Although he can’t communicate his thanks through words, Lee says Haematology staff know that Aidan is happy and comfortable there.

“Everyone who sees him in Haematology knows he’s happy and that’s because of the environment he’s in and the way everyone in Haematology make him feel.

“It makes the very difficult situation we are in easy and almost pleasurable which seems like a weird thing to say when you have a son with leukaemia, but when we go to Haematology, he isn’t stressed.

“That makes things easy for us when we care for him at home. I’m not sure the staff are aware, but their care doesn’t just stop in Haematology. It has a knock on effect to all aspects of Aidan’s care.

“Part of it is due to his attitude towards life, he’s a happy boy, but also because the staff are so accommodating and understanding of his needs, and that was even more evident when we went to get his COVID-19 vaccination.”

Looking forward to the future, Lee said, “Once we leave lockdown, and hopefully Aidan’s immune system strengthens, we’d love to be able to take him to the supermarket or take him on a train, he loves to do both of those things.

“He also loves the seaside. If we can take him to the beach at some point this year, it would be absolutely brilliant.”

Now, Aidan is doing well and has entered the maintenance part of his treatment and Lee attests this to the level of care he has received both medically and personally from the staff working at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB).

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