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Mother's persistence pays off with son's surgery

Jun 17 2012

A Vancouver Island mom who pushed her son ahead of 60 other children on a surgical wait list says the system is broken if kids can't get necessary surgery when they need it.

Ty Wilson, 31, of Courtenay, said that until trying to get her son corrective eye surgery, she believed kids and cancer patients were given priority.

"There's no way there should be 60 kids on a surgical wait list, all of whom are equally deserving of care," Wilson said.

"My persistence made it so that my kid had surgery, but I had the time and ability to navigate the system, and other parents may not."

Sixteen-month-old Dylan Wilson was diagnosed with congenital esotropia, or infantile esotropia, at eight months old. One eye crossed in toward his nose.

Surgical correction is usually recommended between six and nine months of age, according to the Pediatric Ophthalmic Consultants website. At the outside, Wilson was advised, it is best treated before 18 months.

The concern is that if the eyes are misaligned in childhood, binocular vision - the brain's ability to use the two eyes together - does not develop, which can affect other development milestones. At 14 months, Dylan wasn't walking and his mother attributed that to his lack of balance as his one eye turned increasingly more inward.

The best surgeon Victor Pegado could do was try to squeeze Dylan into Victoria General Hospital's operating room in July or August, when he would be 19 months old.

Unwilling to risk her son's eyesight and development, Wilson contacted Comox Valley MLA Don McRae and B.C. Health Minister Mike de Jong.

"My son is no more worthy or deserving than any other child with a similar condition, and I do not want to be perceived as jumping the queue," Wilson wrote in a March 28 email. "At the same time - I cannot give up until I know for certain that Dylan can have his surgery."

Wilson also found an Ontario ophthalmologist who could perform the surgery sooner. In the end, it wasn't necessary - Dylan's local ophthalmologist intervened and Dylan had his surgery on May 3.

Reluctant to complain publicly, Pegado said he is granted less than two days a month in Victoria General Hospital's operating room.

"If I had more time, all those kids would be seen fast," Pegado said. "I have all the time in the world to operate but haven't been given enough time [in the operating room]. We've been waiting years to get more time."

Wilson lays the blame at the feet of the Vancouver Island Health Authority and B.C.'s health ministry.

But they counter that the surgeons control the prioritization of their patients based on the urgency of their patient's medical needs.

"It's the surgeon's office that selects the operating date based on the priority they have set for the specific case, and his or her available operating room time," said VIHA spokeswoman Shannon Marshall in an email.

Ministry of Health spokeswoman Michelle Stewart said a record 514,000 surgical procedures were performed in B.C. last year - more than half of which were performed on an emergency basis.

"We appreciate the frustration of any parent whose child is awaiting surgery and we recognize the stress this can cause," said Stewart.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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