Kevin’s story

Rockinghorse’s founder, Dr Trevor Mann, worked at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital (the Alex) in Brighton during the early days of the NHS and his medical expertise helped thousands of local children and babies.

From introducing longer visiting hours for parents and siblings, to being at the forefront of enhanced care for premature babies, Dr Mann was an innovator in modern paediatric healthcare.

Here, Jean Pratt recalls how her son Kevin (pictured above as a baby with his older brother Glenn) was treated by Dr Mann in 1961, when Kevin was a baby suffering from a condition known as pyloric-stenosis…

“From the day Kevin was born in April 1961, he was a greedy baby. He fed well and seemed to be thriving, putting on weight and was in general good health. But at six weeks old, everything changed.

Kevin went from being a content and happy child, to being constantly sick and upset. He could not keep any milk down and was vomiting violently after every feed. He cried all the time and quickly became very thin and dehydrated. I was so worried about him.

Yet despite my concerns, the midwives did not believe there was anything wrong with him. But I knew Kevin was ill and deteriorating rapidly. After a few days, I took him to our family doctor who told me to take him straight to the children’s hospital.

Thankfully we were seen immediately at the Alex, which was back then the old hospital on Dyke Road, and Kevin was examined by Dr Trevor Mann. By this time my baby was so thin and weak, I was beside myself with worry.

But Dr Mann was so kind and patient. He was very understanding of just how anxious I was, and he took the time to check Kevin over and work out what was wrong.

Dr Mann felt Kevin’s tummy and diagnosed him with pyloric-stenosis, a very serious condition caused by a problem with the muscle which allows food to pass through the stomach into the intestine. When this muscle becomes enlarged, milk is blocked from passing into the bowel to be digested, and this was why Kevin could not keep any feeds down. Instead, he was projectile vomiting and getting severely dehydrated.

“He is going to need an operation” Dr Mann said. Frightening words, but I had confidence in Dr Mann and the Alex. The nurses kept Kevin in the hospital overnight as he was to have the procedure the following day. I was allowed to stay with him, which was unusual in those days as parents were usually sent home, and the next morning he was prepped for surgery.

It must have been a tricky procedure as the nurses asked me: “Has Kevin been Christened?” He had not, so they had a little ceremony for him at the Alex before he went to theatre and gave me a beautiful keepsake card to mark the occasion.

When Kevin was taken from me to be transferred to surgery, I cannot tell you how frightened I felt. He seemed too tiny to go through such an ordeal and the minutes ticked by while I waited for the news he was alright.

Dr Mann operated on Kevin himself, and the surgery required an incision to the muscle to widen the passage for milk to pass into the bowel. Kevin was left with a scar right across his abdomen.

I stayed with Kevin at the Alex for the next four days, as his little body recovered from the procedure and we slowly began to get him feeding properly again. I was so pleased and relieved as he finally kept his milk down, and became strong enough to go home.

A couple of weeks later, Dr Mann asked to see Kevin to check his scar and assess how successful the operation had been. He took one look at my now happy, bonny baby and took him to show off to the other doctors and nurses on the ward.

“Look how much weight little Kevin has put on now!” he said, obviously delighted with how well the procedure had gone. All the staff came to look at my son, and to marvel at the change in him after being so thin and poorly. Now he was back to his healthy, greedy self!

Kevin did not need any further treatment following his operation, and I made sure as he grew up he knew just how well Dr Mann had looked after him. And how the NHS had saved his life – something which I will always be very thankful for.”

Kevin, now a 56-year-old Dad of two (pictured above with his wife Tracey), has this to say about his treatment…

“I am and always will be eternally grateful to Dr Mann. Although I obviously don’t remember what went on back then I know from my mum what an amazing person he was and just what he did for me.

He told my Mum that the chances would be that I would grow up to be a “big lad” as babies that had suffered the condition often did, he wasn’t wrong there!

I have been very happily married for 32 years to my wife Tracey and we have two amazing daughters of our own, none of which could have happened without the great work of Trevor Mann. All I can say is thank you.”

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