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‘I feel born again’: NI man forced to travel to Scotland for surgery after almost 10 years on NHS waiting list

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Robert Morrow (86), from Carrickfergus, developed rhinophyma around 2014.

A very visible skin disorder, rhinophyma is caused by a proliferation of sebaceous glands and underlying connective tissue which can lead to severe swelling, lumps and redness.

The condition affects mainly older, white men.

Mr Morrow said the obvious nature of the condition had affected his mental health and left him self-conscious, keeping his head down in public.

After seeking help, he initially spent seven years on the waiting list for treatment before even receiving a call back.

“I went to my doctor who diagnosed it and give me an ointment and antibiotics,” Mr Morrow said.

“This didn’t seem to do much good and it actually got worse over time, particularly on one side of my nose.

“I was on the NHS waiting list for seven years and was only once called to check if I still wanted the treatment.

“I said yes, but I was never called back. I was then told it could be another three years. This phone call took place two years ago.”

Robert before the operation in Glasgow

Mr Morrow’s daughter, Paulene Meehan, eventually persuaded her father to return to the clinic, but he was again told that the waiting list would be lengthy and that, if he had the funds, he should consider private treatment.

The family tried two private options in Northern Ireland. They received no reply from one centre, while the other also had long waiting times for the procedure.

Mr Morrow then submitted an online query to Ever Clinic, a private clinic in Glasgow, and arranged the operation for November 2023.

The procedure in Scotland involved a laser excision treatment rather than the plastic surgery method available in Northern Ireland.

That meant the recovery period was so short that the father-of-three was able to go for a pint immediately afterwards.

Robert with his daughter Paulene Meehan, who helped make arrangements for the treatment

“We went straight to a pub in George Square afterwards and got a pint of Guinness,” said Paulene.

“It’s a real shame that such a treatment isn’t possible in Northern Ireland.

“When people think of private medical care, they assume it will be prohibitive. But the costs are reasonable and value for money considering the life-changing benefits it has brought my dad and the family.”

Mr Morrow, who is a retired mechanic, said the procedure had left him feeling “born again”.

“I could see an improvement every day. The level of service has been exceptional and the after-care has been fantastic,” he said.

“The service and attention for just one patient was incredible, and the reaction from my friends has been tremendous.”

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