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From Keighley News, 7th December, 2017
Written by Alastair Shand

 A KEIGHLEY mum who says her son is alive today thanks to a Leeds heart unit has welcomed news that the threatened facility is safe. Leeds Congenital Heart Unit has been given an official green light to stay open by national health chiefs, after years of uncertainty. Andrea Steel, whose son Ben was diagnosed with a condition by medical teams there when he was ten, said she was "thrilled to bits" with the announcement.

"It's just fantastic," said Mrs Steel, 56.

"The unit should never have been under threat in the first place.

"The staff are wonderful and do incredible work. I can't thank them enough.

"If it hadn't have been for them, Ben wouldn't be here today. It's as simple as that."

As a youngster, Ben – now 30 – was found to have a hereditary condition which causes the muscle wall of the heart to thicken.

He still takes medication and has annual check-ups, but is able to lead a virtually normal life.

When the heart unit was first faced with closure, Mrs Steel joined other families in launching a battle to keep it open.

"We took a petition around and everyone backed it – the support was overwhelming," she said.

"It just shows, you shouldn't argue with people in Yorkshire!"

The decision is also welcomed by the Children's Heart Surgery Fund (CHSF), which supports children and adults across the region born with congenital heart disease.

Funded by donations, the charity – which celebrates its 30th anniversary next year – works alongside the unit.

"Finally families have certainty and I'd like to thank all those who campaigned tirelessly to retain Yorkshire's only heart unit," said CHSF chief executive officer, Sharon Coyle.

"Without the ongoing support of families, patients, communities, MPs, councillors, corporate partners and the great Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire public, we wouldn't be running today.

"We must now look to the future.

"Our aim is to carry on supporting the heart unit in reaching new standards set out by NHS England."

Keighley MP John Grogan said long-term planning could now be carried out.

"This important announcement appears to be the end of a long saga," he added.

"Doctors, nurses and the families of young patients have fought tirelessly to keep the heart unit open in Leeds.

"Now that planning can take place for the long term, it should be easier to recruit and retain the specialist doctors and medical staff that are needed to provide the highest quality care."