Father of five-year-old cancer patient describes hell of Covid treatment delays


The father of a five-year-old girl cancer patient has described 2020 as “hell” as he bemoaned delays to her treatment due to Covid-19.

Scarlett Coleman, from Middlesbrough, was diagnosed with lymphoma at the start of this year – a side-effect of the heart transplant she received in 2015, aged five months.

She has been in and out of hospital since, but her father Ian Johnson said the disruption caused by the pandemic has delayed her latest operation for four months, with a date still not planned.

It is not believed the delay will be fatal for Scarlett, but it has meant she has also not had a CT scan for four months and she is suffering acute pain.

“We keep getting cancelled… just told it’s in the pipe line,” Mr Johnson, 38, told the PA news agency.

“She screams her tummy and bum hurts… I hope the cancer hasn’t spread to her tummy but we won’t know until CT scan, but it keeps getting cancelled… we are forever chasing it up.

“I heard her crying and saying ‘mam help me’ but there was nothing we could do… It’s affecting us all mentally and emotionally.

“From me and my family please stick to the rules so families like mine are not suffering due to the NHS being overwhelmed.”

When Scarlett has been able to get an appointment, Mr Johnson has not been able to attend hospital with her as Covid restrictions mean only one parent is allowed.

His partner Melanie Coleman, 37, is Scarlett’s mother and full-time carer and attends hospital with her.

“It kills me as I’ve been beside her bedside for all operations and procedures,” Mr Johnson added.

Asked how he would describe 2020 for families like his, he said: “Hell.

“Babies, kids and adults all suffering due to the NHS being overwhelmed… it’s not right.”

Mr Johnson works full time for a Tesco distribution centre in Teesside and he and Ms Coleman have three older children – Kacey, Leah and Lucas Coleman.

Scarlett was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome with an intact atrial septum which ultimately resulted in post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD) when her heart was replaced.

Another cancer patient, Ian Shuttleworth, from St Helens, has been in remission since October 2016 but found a new lump in his neck a month ago.

Despite contacting his GP at the end of September and repeated calls since, Mr Shuttleworth still does not have a date for a CT scan.
He received a phone consultation last week and the clinician said the location of the lump just below his skull suggests it is not cancer-related.

“But until I know for sure I’m very anxious,” the 57-year-old told PA.

“I’m not criticising the NHS, I think the Government response to Covid has been poor and underfinanced.

“People such as myself with potentially life-threatening issues are not getting the timely investigations that could save their lives or at least, but just as important, settle their minds.”

Mr Shuttleworth has been scheduled an in-person consultation in two weeks.