A girl from Cross Gates in Leeds had open heart surgery before turning five months old - now she's a parkrun regular
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Unbeknownst to Charlotte, Emelia had been born with tetralogy of fallot, a congenital heart defect that would eventually lead to her needing open heart surgery before reaching five months old. Charlotte explained: “She was my third child and as far as we were concerned, everything was completely fine. We had normal pregnancy scans, had a few extra scans, and everything was completely fine.
"Before she had her first vaccination, she had a normal check-up at the doctors and that was when they discovered she had a heart murmur. Everyone was reassuring us – saying people can have heart murmurs and it’s fine. We then found out she had a very severe heart condition, which came completely out of the blue.
"We were just naive about things. When we went to the appointment, I was completely expecting him to say it was nothing. When he turned round and said she had a very serious congenital heart defect and will need open heart surgery, I remember the floor falling from underneath my feet. It was just shock, really.
"I remember at the time doing loads of research. There’s a professional snowboarder with the same condition as Emelia and he’s done really well – stories like that give you hope but I don’t think anyone ever expects it. She had a four centimetre hole in her heart. The hole was huge – they don’t understand how it was missed.”
Emelia underwent the surgery after experiencing what is known as a tet spell, which is caused by a rapid drop in the amount of oxygen in the blood. She was rushed to the accident and emergency department after going “floppy and blue”.
Charlotte said: “When she had about four months old, she had a severe spell and went floppy and blue. We got blue lighted to A&E and brought forward the operation. She had heart surgery at four and a half months old to correct her heart. It’s an eight-hour operation. She has a scar on her chest but we have brought her up to be really proud of that.”
Despite everything Emelia has had to go through, she has developed a penchant for exercise and physical activity. Now aged six, she is a regular participant in junior parkrun and also enjoys dancing and cycling. She has also developed into a strong swimmer. Charlotte said: “She goes back for check-ups but she is now just about to turn seven and runs in junior parkrun most Sundays. She’s just done really well – we’re so proud of her.
"Back in the day, children born with this condition used to die in childhood. We’re just grateful that she’s here. She’s just thriving now in her activities she does. There are so many parents going through this. For them to see how active Emelia is, it can be a reassuring story for people to read.”
Throughout the ordeal, Emelia and her family were able to rely on support from the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund. The charity provided the family with accommodation while Emelia was in hospital and even gave Emelia a medal, teddy and certificate following her operation.
Charlotte said: “They are really good. Initially, the woman running it at the time met up with me personally at the café in Leeds General Infirmary. I was in a complete state but she offered me support and let me know they were there. After the operation, they come along with a medal, a teddy and a certificate.”