NHS refuses to help little girl with a fixable disability
The NHS was supposed to be there when people had catastrophic ailments but that is precisely when they turn away
Side-by-side these adorable twins look identical. One of them, however, is wearing leg splints and can barely walk without a frame. That’s because Isabella Platt suffers from a debilitating form of cerebral palsy. All she wants is ‘new’ pair of legs so she can do what she loves most – dance with her sister Gabriella.
But Isabella is having to fight for them – because she can’t get the operation she needs on the NHS.
The fun-loving four-year-old was born with the condition and needs a frame to stand upright. Her parents have been warned she may never walk unaided – yet the help she needs is available.
Gabriella does her best to make life easier for her twin in the meantime. She wears the clumpiest, biggest black shoes her parents can find so Isabella doesn’t feel left out with her corrective boots. And she holds her hands to keep Isabella upright when she struggles to keep her balance.
The family were offered a spinal procedure last May by a surgeon in Bristol. However, Isabella’s family say she can’t get it done on the NHS because of the strict selection criteria and large amount of aftercare required.
Now the family are fighting to raise £50,000 to go to America where a US surgeon’s ground-breaking spinal surgery could promise to see Isabella fulfil her dreams.
Isabella had told her parents: ‘I wish I could take my legs off I hate them. They’re awful.’
Mother Stacey Platt, an air hostess from Preston, Lancashire, said: ‘What I want for Izzy is for her to be happy and do what she wants. She wants to dance and run and ride her bike. ‘I want to see her without the leg splints, I want her to be able to walk into a shoe store and get anything she wants.
‘At an age where little girls want pink, sparkly shoes, she wears these ugly black ones. We get Gabby the clumpiest, blackest shoes we can find so that they’re more similar. ‘I think she understands why and she never ever complains. I’ve told them after the operation they can both get Lilly Kelly shoes. “When the advert for them comes on, they turn to me and say, “Mummy when Izzy gets her legs fixed we’ll get these ones”.’
‘Gabby and Izzy are really close. I’m so glad she’s got a twin sister to look after her. ‘It gives her that extra support. If Gabby thinks anyone’s being rough with her, she’ll step in.
Stacey and husband, hairdresser Jason Platt, 47, discovered their daughter had spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy, at 18 months after seeing numerous specialists.
‘Gabby walked when she was one, but Izzy didn’t sit up, roll over or move much. When we set her up on her legs against the bed her right ankle didn’t look right. ‘The GP said, “don’t compare them just because they’re twins”. We went to see another consultant and they thought it was club foot. ‘We went to see another one and he said it was flat feet.
‘It was a junior doctor who said, when she was 18 months, “Has anyone mentioned cerebral palsy?” He said that after five minutes, after walking with her.’
How Izzy got the condition is a mystery – carried almost to full term at 38 and a half weeks, she weighed 6lb 4oz when she was born first, before Gabby born weighing 4lb 4oz. Both babies were healthy and crying. ‘All the consultants and specialists don’t know why she got the brain damage.’ Stacey and Jason, who also have an eight-year-old son Charlie, filmed her first steps aged two and a half.
The family found out about the procedure in the US, called selective dorsal rhizotomy, when a family from Hyde went on the local news to show how well it had worked on their daughter.
It involves spinal surgery and lengthening of the leg muscles.
Stacey said: ‘Since then, I’ve seen about 180 videos after joining a Facebook group with the families of children from all over the world who have had this surgery. ‘He has 100 per cent success rate. There’s nothing negative to say about it at all. The difference is amazing. He gets kids out of wheelchairs.’
She added: ‘Overall it improves the qualities of life of the children who get it. The NHS could potentially offer it, but it would be after she’s seven, but I’m worried that it will start to effect her more as she gets older.
‘She’s really happy, confident and smiley. But I’m worried that’s going to start changing. On our last holiday when there were all the activities where people were standing on their feet she went and hid. ‘It’s starting to bother her a bit. She’s a bit embarrassed about it now. If I’ll be speaking to someone and she’s with me, she’ll hide her legs behind me. She’s starting to become more shy about it now. I’m worried school might make it worse for her.’
The family have tentatively booked the trip out to the Center for Cerebral Palsy Spasticity in St Louis, Missouri for January 2012 for the surgery, which will include five weeks of rehabilitation. So far they have since raised £10,000 of the £50,000 they need since May.
I spent three years at Cambridge eating walnut cake, but don’t let anyone tell you a degree is a waste of time
Tom Utley tells a jolly story below in his usual way but he is notably vague about the way in which university “enriched” his life. He makes it clear that it was not his studies. I suppose I must sound a dreadful swot but for me it was precisely the subjects I studied that I found enriching, with philosophy and economics being most so. I was quite active in student life but the only “extra-curricular” activity of which I have fond memories was my time in an army unit attached to the university. But many men have fond memories of their time in the army
Like so many other history graduates, I’ve found that one of the most useful phrases in the English language is: ‘Sorry, mate, not my period.’
I’ve used it countless times over the years when my sons have asked for help with their homework on the Tudors, or when arguments in the pub have turned to why exactly it was that a nation as apparently civilised as Germany turned so enthusiastically to Nazism in the Thirties. ‘You’re a historian, Tom. Tell us how it could have happened.’ ‘Sorry, mate, not my period.’
The truth (and whisper it quietly) is that I’ve long forgotten almost all the history I was taught during my three idyllic, and heavily subsidised, years at Cambridge in the early Seventies.
Indeed, I can only just recall what my period was — and I’m certainly not going to reveal it here and risk being grilled on it by my boys.
So just how much value is a university degree, in a subject as easily forgotten and with such few obvious practical applications as history?
Over the past fortnight, the question has been weighing heavily on the minds of tens of thousands of teenagers, including my youngest son (of whom more later), as their A-level results have come in and the scramble for the last remaining university places continues.
This year, the dilemma — degree or not degree? — has been thrown into sharper focus than ever by the prospect of tuition fees almost trebling to £9,000 a year from 2012.
For those who fail to find places this autumn, this will mean the truly agonising decision of whether to try again next year, when the price of a three-year course at most universities will rocket from £10,125 to £27,000, while a four-year course will cost a whopping £22,500 more at £36,000.
Rubbing the shine off a degree still further, the Office for National Statistics reports this week that one in five graduates actually earns less than the average of those who went straight into work from school with as little as a single A-level. And that figure takes no account of the many graduates who are currently unemployed or who have never worked.
Seen from another angle, of course, the ONS findings mean that four out of five graduates earn at least as much as less qualified school-leavers, while most earn considerably more.
But, at the same time, the figures do show that for a significant minority the Government’s oft-repeated claim that a degree is worth an extra £100,000 across a working life is pretty meaningless.
I think of my own eldest son, three years after he graduated from Edinburgh with a more-than-respectable 2:1 in Spanish, still working every hour God sends behind a bar in West London for little more than the minimum wage.
Or son number two, the idealist of the family, working for a charity in one of the most run-down parts of the Capital, teaching English to immigrants. If he spent three years studying for his 2:1 in English at Newcastle with a view to getting rich, he’s going a funny way about it.
But then I don’t suppose that when they made the decision to go to university, either of them gave a passing thought to the likely effect of a degree on their future earnings.
Quite right, too. For although a lucrative job may be an attractive by-product of a degree (in most cases), it isn’t really the point, is it?
Certainly, the financial value of a degree played no part at all in my calculations when I accepted Cambridge’s offer in 1972. I went partly because I was strongly attracted by the idea of postponing real life for three years — four, including my gap year — but, mostly, because I was lucky enough to have been to a school where it was simply assumed that everyone would go on to university.
Of course, the decision was very much more straightforward then than it is now, since the State was kind enough to pay my full tuition fees, together with a generous allowance for my food, drink and accommodation.
Indeed, unbelievable as it will sound to my sons’ generation, I graduated after three years with my bank account a few pounds in credit. But if you ask me now what was the point of the taxpayers’ largesse, or what they received in return for it, I’d be very hard pushed to tell you.
If I’d studied engineering, medicine or microbiology, I could probably make a convincing case that the investment was worthwhile, and that my studies had added to the gross domestic product or the general health of the nation. But history?
As I may have confessed before, a typical day for me at Cambridge would begin at about 3pm, long after the morning’s lectures were over, when I would crawl out of bed and make my way to Fitzbillies cake shop, opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum.
There, I would buy a large chocolate and walnut cake and take it back to my college, where I’d eat the whole thing. This would set me up for a stroll across the Cam to the history library, where I’d pretend to read for a while until opening time at the Eagle.
Then began hours of conviviality, which would generally end at three or four in the morning, after a Chinese takeaway, with a bottle of port in somebody else’s rooms.
Only once every seven days, on the eve of my supervision, would I have to break this shameful routine with a frantic all-night session, desperately bluffing my way through the weekly essay that was all that was required of me to keep my place.
True, throughout my working life I’ve paid many times more in tax than I received from the State during those three years.
But while it never did my job-hunting any harm to put MA (Hons) Cantab on my CV, I would be very hard pushed to claim that anything I learned at Cambridge added value to my future work.
Indeed, I’ve long been one of those irritating people — mostly graduates, I notice, since those without degrees tend to attach much greater value to them — who believe that too many young people go to universities these days, while for many of them it’s a waste of time and money.
With that thought in mind, I steeled myself for the worst last week, preparing comforting words for my youngest if he failed to get his grades. It wasn’t the end of the world, I was going to tell him. University really wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be — and it was certainly not a guaranteed passport to wealth. Just look at his two older brothers.
And yet, reader, he passed! And as soon as he broke the news that he’d achieved the grades he needed to get into Sheffield to read Spanish — and, yes, history — my heart fair burst with pride and happiness.
Suddenly, the joy of my three years at university flooded back to me. I realised that in countless intangible ways, those seemingly wasted years were the most hugely enriching time of my life — and that everything I’d been planning to tell the boy was rubbish.
To those who see a degree course as a path to making money, I would still advise caution — especially after the fees go up next year. And anyone considering some of the vaguer-sounding courses on offer, such as community development or social welfare, might do well to check the drop-out rates before starting to run up those massive loans.
But even if you forget the lot, you just can’t put a price on three or four years at a proper university, studying a proper subject such as history. And don’t believe any world-weary old fool who tells you otherwise.
Google chief says UK obsessed with ‘luvvy’ school subjects and calls for ‘Victorian’ return of science
The boss of Google last night criticised the British education system for its obsession with ‘luvvy’ subjects at the expense of science and engineering.
Dr Eric Schmidt called for a return to a ‘Victorian’ approach of bringing ‘art and science back together’ so that the UK can compete globally.
The internet giant’s executive chairman said there was a lack of students taking science and engineering in Britain and that something must be done to ‘reignite’ children’s passion for the subjects.
Giving the annual MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, he warned that the UK risks falling behind in the digital age unless it makes drastic changes.
The American tycoon said Britain was in danger of losing ground to other countries, despite being the birthplace of the TV and the computer.
‘Over the past century the UK has stopped nurturing its polymaths,’ he said. ‘There’s been a drift to the humanities – engineering and science aren’t championed. ‘Even worse, both sides seem to denigrate the other – to use what I’m told is the local vernacular, you’re either a “luvvy” or a “boffin”. ‘To change that you need to start with education. We need to reignite children’s passion for science, engineering and maths.’
Dr Schmidt, who is worth more than £4billion, said: ‘I was flabbergasted to learn that today computer science isn’t even taught as standard in UK schools. First: you need to bring art and science back together. Think back to the glory days of the Victorian era. It was a time when the same people wrote poetry and built bridges.’
In his lecture he praised British television as a success story but warned that ‘everything’ could still go wrong. ‘If I may be so impolite your track record isn’t great,’ he said. ‘The UK is home of so many media-related inventions.
‘You invented photography. You invented TV. You invented computers in both concept and practice. ‘It’s not widely known, but the world’s first office computer was built in 1951 by Lyon’s chain of tea shops. Yet today, none of the world’s leading exponents in these fields are from the UK.’
He said British businesses needed support to become world leaders, otherwise the UK would be the place ‘where inventions are born – but not bred for long-term success’.
Dr Schmidt, 56, who studied electrical engineering at Princeton University in New Jersey, joined Google in 2001 and was chief executive of the company until earlier this year. He is the first non-broadcaster to give the landmark lecture which is dedicated to the memory of actor and producer James MacTaggart.
In the past it has been delivered by some of the biggest names in broadcasting including Jeremy Paxman, Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch.
Dr Schmidt also confirmed plans to launch Google TV in the UK. British TV executives fear the arrival of Google TV, which allows viewers to get internet content on their TV screens, could hit their advertising revenue.
In his speech, Dr Schmidt apologised for not appreciating ‘other’s discomfort’ at the ‘disruption’ caused by Google’s position.
Another false rape claim from Britain
Such claims never seem to stop in Britain. At least they have the benefit of undermining feminist claims that women should always be believed about such things. Good that Britain puts them in jail too. The accusations are so heinous that they should in fact get the same sentence that the man would have got if convicted
Two friends who falsely claimed they were raped were jailed yesterday because the suspect had photos of them all having a threesome. Jennifer France, 24, and Kelly Weston, a 27-year-old mother, posed for saucy snaps on Enes Gozalan’s bed after meeting him in a pub.
A court heard they later made the false allegations because both had long-term boyfriends and were ashamed of what they had done.
Their 30-year-old victim was arrested and kept in custody for 18 hours because the pair claimed they had been raped multiple times.
As soon as Mr Gozalan was arrested, he produced his mobile phone and told officers he had photos to prove his innocence. He later told detectives: ‘The photographs show the girls were having a good time. I do not understand why they would make up something so nasty.’
Carolyn Branford-Wood, prosecuting, told Southampton Crown Court that Weston attended a police station two days after the alleged attack. ‘Miss Weston had been out with her brother’s girlfriend, Miss France, for a family meal,’ she said. ‘During the course of the evening they met two Turkish men. The four of them had been in a pub together and left together. ‘Miss Weston went on to claim that she had been raped by one of these men at his home. ‘The following day Miss France also informed the police that she too had been raped by the same man.’
But she said Mr Gozalan’s phone showed ‘not only him engaged in sexual activity, but the two women too’. He was released on bail following his arrest on October 18 last year and later informed no further action would be taken.
Weston and France were arrested in January on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. In two interviews, Weston maintained she had been raped but, in a third, she broke down when she was shown the photographs.
Miss Branford-Wood added: ‘She said she had gone to Mr Gozalan’s house and had consensual sexual activity with both him and Miss France. In police interview Miss France said she had made up the account to cover up the fact she had had sex with someone who was not her boyfriend.’
In a statement read to the court Mr Gozalan said the incident had ruined his life. He added: ‘I was shocked when I was arrested for rape. My first thought was that I was pleased I kept the photographs, which showed the girls were having a good time. ‘I have faced threats of attack following the allegations and have had sleepless nights.’
France, of Southampton, and Weston, of nearby Eastleigh, each admitted a count of perverting justice. They were jailed for 20 months.
The court heard Weston accepted she had done wrong and feared going to jail because she wanted to look after her two children. Natalie Wood, defending France, said she had felt guilty about having sex with Mr Gozalan because she too had a boyfriend.
Passing sentence, Judge Peter Ralls QC told the pair: ‘The allegations you have made are of the most serious kind and were entirely false. ‘Although there had been sexual activity between you and Mr Gozalan and between you together, there was no force and it was consensual. ‘By supporting one another with these wicked allegations, you have aggravated matters. This man was at serious risk of being imprisoned for a long period of time, perhaps ten years, perhaps indeterminately.’
Antidepressants ‘cut bowel and brain cancer risk’
This is interesting but it would be incautious to assume that what works with depressed people will work with normals.
Furthermore, it can reasonably be assumed that depressed people are (for instance) less active and it may in some way be the lower level of activity (or other factors associated with depression) that produced the effect rather than the medication
A commonly-prescribed type of antidepressant cuts the risk of bowel cancer by up to a fifth, according to a study of 93,000 people.
Tricyclic antidepressants also reduce the risk of glioma – the most common type of brain cancer – by up to two-thirds, found the study by academics at three British universities. Taking larger doses for longer increases the preventative effect, the researchers found.
Although the results, based on data from the General Practice Research Database, are startling, it is highly unlikely such drugs would be widely prescribed to those without mental health problems because of their side-effects. Many are sedatives, for example.
Nevertheless, the academics are excited because they say people at a genetically higher risk of the two types of cancer could be prescribed them.
The finding could also lead to the development of specifically designed pharmaceuticals to tackle bowel and brain cancer, said Dr Tim Bates, of Lincoln University and New-Use Therapeutics, a drugs development company. He explained that tricyclic antidepressants worked by attacking the “Achilles’ heel” of some cancer cells, their mitochondria. These are the chemical powerhouses that enable cells to function.
He said: “As cancer mitochondria are biochemically different from mitochondria in normal non-cancer cells, they represent an Achilles’ heel.” Tricyclic antidepressants appeared to interfere with the normal working of mitochondria in bowel and glioma cancer cells, he added.
He went on: “The cancer prevention action of these drugs may translate into one that is also useful in treating glioma, both in adults and in children, and colorectal cancer.”
The study, paid for with £75,000 from the publicly-funded Medical Research Council, compared about 31,500 people with cancer with about 61,500 people without, and was adjusted for age, gender, smoking, obesity and other factors.
It showed that people on tricyclic antidepressants were between 16 and 21 per cent less likely to have developed bowel cancer, with those who had been taking them at higher doses for longer receiving greater protection. Bowel cancer is the second bigger cancer killer in Britain after lung cancer, killing 16,000 people a year.
For glioma, tumours of the brain and spine, which kill up to 2,000 a year, the reduced risk was between 41 and 64 per cent. There was no effect on reducing incidence of other types of cancer.
The research has been published in the British Journal of Cancer.