Welwyn Garden City family left distressed after four-year-old son’s medical waste not collected
PUBLISHED: 17:13 08 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:13 08 July 2020
Surrounded by the medical waste that has kept him alive, four-year-old super-warrior Elliot Harridge is still a picture of perfection.
The Buzz Lightyear fan is just happy to be at his Howlands home, Welwyn Garden City, with his loving family, after spending the majority of his short life in hospital.
But Welwyn Hatfield council failed to collect bags of clinical waste for weeks, causing unnecessary stress.
Stress that full-time carer mum Vikki Mason, 30, and dad James Harridge, 33, could have done without.
Their young boy was diagnosed with many conditions, including two rare chromosome disorders.
He has intestinal failure, which means the only way he can be kept alive is to be fed directly through his heart (TPN).
All of this involves equipment which fills between two and three bags each week and the council is responsible for collecting this – as they have done without problem for the last five years.
Vikki – who is also mum to Esmae, six, and 11-year-old Ebony – looks after Elliot round the clock with the support of nurses, who are necessarily using PPE amid the pandemic, adding to the amount of medical waste.
Elliot spends extended periods at Great Ormond Street and Lister hospitals to try to manage his multiple complex medical needs.
He recently underwent six hours of decompression brain surgery, and he has large cysts in his spine which affect his walking and his speech.
Elliot is so vulnerable to disease that doctors recently sent him home from hospital with sepsis, because if he caught coronavirus that could be deadly. Elliot – who was born prematurely – is neutropenic, which means he has virtually no immune system and he often has sepsis.
He is awaiting surgical procedures, including an operation to remove his gallbladder, which are delayed because of the pandemic. Yet his parents are understanding and grateful for all NHS staff and the care Elliot receives.
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They run a Facebook page ‘Elliot’s Fight’, from which they have collected £6,500 for Lister Hospital, Stevenage, in the last couple of years.
Vikki said: “Elliot requires 24-hour care. He is at home on TPN and currently on eight IV antibiotics a day, with free drainage bags. We are like a hospital at home. I do all his medical care to be able to have him at home when we can, as he’s spent most of his life in hospital.
“We haven’t got time to be dealing with this and we have nowhere to put the bags. The tip doesn’t take them.
“I gave them the benefit of the doubt but Week 2 and no bags were collected. They said they had changed contractors and will only take one bag a week.
“Then they said to my neighbour they didn’t take it because the bag was see-through, yet one was see-through and one was not. And they provide the bags, so they are just making excuses. My partner rang the council and they said they will come back and collect it - but they didn’t.”
A spokeswoman for Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council confirmed that, after this newspaper contacted them, the bags were collected.
She added: “There are strict rules and regulations surrounding the collection and transport of clinical waste. Unfortunately, on the last two occasions, crews have been unable to collect all the sacks.
“We have apologised for any inconvenience or concern this may have caused and assured the family that we will continue to monitor the situation.”
However, the WHT has spoken to an ex council worker, whose role was to collect medical waste and claims he was laid off in May over a disagreement relating to overtime.
The 50-year-old from Widford Road, Welwyn Garden City, who picked up clinical waste for six years, told us: “The families are already under so much stress with sick children or family members, so this is awful – that they have to worry that contaminated bags of waste are sitting around in the house.
“The last thing these families need is more complications or risk of sickness from clinical waste.”
Yet despite the challenges Elliot faces, the family’s love reaches to infinity and beyond.
Speaking proudly, Vikki added: “He is a huge Toy Story fan, especially Buzz Lightyear, and he loves the fire, police and ambulance [services] – everything in life. He’s a happy little boy who knows no different with two big sisters that adore him, as much as he loves them.”
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