FAMILIES fear for the future of a life-saving brain injury centre.
The Wirral Neurological Rehabilitation Unit at Clatterbridge Hospital provides specialist care for brain injury patients. There are concerns that it may be run down or amlgamated with another department.
Susan and Mel Roberts, of Llangollen, say they have particular reason to be grateful to it. Their 19-year-old daughter Zara is due home from the unit in a couple of weeks following a road accident.
'They literally have given our daughter's life back to us. She has come on beyond our wildest dreams,' said Susan.
The couple were so grateful they held a rugby match which raised more than £1,300 for the centre.
But they are concerned that a review currently taking place by health chiefs may lead to the centre being amalgamated with the stroke unit on the same site.
Currently there are 16 beds but they believe the number of beds available for brain injury patients could be reduced to six.
Hospital chiefs say no decisions have yet been taken on any changes but confirmed that a review of the work of the centre is taking place. They added that any changes will be aimed at enhancing the service to patients, not reducing it.
But Mel, a detective, and Susan, a dispenser at a pharmacist, say investment is needed to ensure the service is expanded to meet the need throughout the North West and North Wales.
Mel said: 'This is the only centre of its kind, covering a very large area. It is used an awful lot by people from North Wales.
'We fear it will not be the same if the unit is amalgamated with the stroke unit, which is predominantly used by older people.
'This unit has worked wonders with our daughter. When she woke up she could not move any part of her body. Now she can walk and make herself a drink or something to eat'
When the crash first happened in April, the devastated couple were told to prepare for the worst because Zara's aorta had been torn.
She underwent emergency surgery at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, where she was unconscious for eight weeks.
When she came around she could not speak and it was three weeks before she was able to say 'mum'.
Her progress at the neurological centre has been 'amazing' and although her speech is still slow she is showing constant improvement.
Zara herself is angry that the unit may be under threat.
'This centre has given me my life back,' she said. 'I am getting better all the time and I am now looking forward to coming home full-time.'
Zara will be coming home for good in two weeks.
'It is such a wonderful Christmas present for us,' Susan said.
She added that despite the trauma of what happened, Zara is keen to get on with her life and continue her education, severely disrupted by the crash which occurred when she decided to pop in to Wrexham for a new mobile telephone.
The accident meant Zara was unable to take her A-level examinations in English literature, physics and physical education.
The couple, who also have a son Lee, 24, say they cannot describe how grateful they are to the centre.
'They have given Zara back to us,' said Susan. 'She would not be where she is today without the centre and its staff. They really are marvellous.'
In a prepared statement issued through public relations consultants, health chiefs said: 'Wirral Hospital NHS Trust seeks continually to enhance all its services, not least those provided to patients with brain injury.
'That is why it is currently reviewing the work of the Wirral Neurological Rehabilitation Unit at Clatterbridge Hospital.
'No firm proposals have yet been drawn up for discussion and consultation, but any future change would aim to enhance the excellent service provided to these patients, not to reduce it in any way.'