Hornchurch teen with half a brain told he must wait eight weeks for physiotherapy
�A teenager who has use of only half his brain could be left wheelchair-bound for Christmas after being told by the NHS he must wait eight weeks for physiotherapy.
Lewis Unwin, from Suttons Lane, Hornchurch, has spent the past three years being treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital for epilepsia partialis continua – a rare neurological disease which causes recurrent pain and spasms.
In August, surgeons “disconnected” the right hand side of his brain which was causing his illness, in dangerous surgery called hemispherectomy, and warned mum Kay Unwin that unless it was done he would eventually become wheelchair-bound.
The operation left the budding football coach paralysed on his left hand side and half- blind.
However, within weeks he astounded surgeons by walking and was told to continue his physiotherapy at St George’s Hospital, in Suttons Lane, Hornchurch.
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But the family were devastated to learn he would have to join an eight-week waiting list because Lewis is not considered priority enough by providers NHS Outer North East London.
Kay, his full-time carer, said: “He is 18 years old and just wants to recover the best he can to be able to move on in life.
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“The Great Ormond Street doctors and my GP can’t believe he will have to wait so long – and are sure it will set him back months of progress.
“He could be back in his wheelchair – it’s heartbreaking. We just want him to have as much of a normal life as he can.”
Lewis said: “The rehab team have said that I have been the most determined person they have seen after this operation. If local care is not provided, then I’ll struggle.
“It is stressful enough and this will set me back so much mentally and physically.”
A spokesman for NHS Outer North East London said patients are assessed on discharge from hospital and prioritised appropriately so that those with the greatest clinical need are seen sooner.
He added: “Typically, a patient would be given a home exercise plan from the referring hospital, while waiting for physiotherapy, and this would help them begin their rehabilitation.”
It is thought Lewis, a former Sanders Drapers School pupil, who first started showing signs of his illness aged 14, suffered an extreme reaction to the common cold.
Despite the setbacks, Lewis gained five GCSEs, as well as Grade 1 FA football coaching badge, and he hopes to work with children in the future.