Four-year-old Leeds girl born with hole in heart writes moving letter to headteacher to ask to take part in Wear Red Day
A four-year-old girl from Leeds who was born with a hole in her heart has written a moving letter to her teacher asking for her new school to take part in Wear Red Day.
Little Jess Mitchelmore, from Kippax, was only seven months old when doctors discovered that she had a hole in her heart.
Just aged two she underwent open heart surgery and now, with her family's help, she is helping poorly children just like her by raising money for the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund (CHSF).
In a touching handwritten letter to her headteacher at Kippax Greenfield Primary School, the reception student asked if everyone in the school could wear red on Friday, February 7.
This will not be the first year the school partakes in Wear Red Day, as Jess’ older brother Harry, 8, has been asking the headteacher for the past few years, however it is the first time Jess has been able to ask herself.
Mum Joanna, 40, said: "Jess was really excited to ask Mrs Roberts.
"She is just learning to write and she loves it so she was really excited to do it herself - even if she needed a little bit of extra help from mum and dad.
"Jess was quite young when the surgery happened so didn't really know what was going on but she does have some understanding of what she’s been through and the charity.
"She loves being a part of it and the fundraising.
"The charity pay for some presents for the children after their surgery - a Katie Bear soft toy, a certificate and a medal - and she's obsessed with them.
"Her certificate is hung proudly above her bed and she took it and her medal into school for show and tell recently."
Although Jess was too young to remember her life-saving surgery on the Leeds Congenital Heart unit, her mum and dad remember the difficult time well.
Thankfully for Joanna and her husband Mike, they were able to stay very close to Jess during her operation, due to accommodation for parents which is funded by the CHSF.
The mum-of-two said: "We were all really worried, especially Harry, but the hospital staff looked after us in ways we didn’t even know we needed looking after, even doing play therapy with Harry to help him understand what was going on.
"The main thing was that we could stay on the ward next to her for the night.
"Even though we only live in Kippax, being on the ward meant that we could just run to her if we got a call and not worry about practical issues like getting there quick enough or parking.
"I was just so grateful that I wouldn’t have to be so far away from her."
She added: "The staff on the ward are amazing and the surgery was fantastic
"They are just so good at looking after the family as well as Jess
"Although Jess was in pain and a bit upset after the operation she coped really well.
"Now she’s thriving, very healthy, active and very vocal.
"I want to say a massive thank you to the staff for making a very, very difficult time as good as it could have been."
Joanna and Mike are now actively involved in the CHSF charity and have made friends with families from Leeds that have been through a similar experience.
Joanna said: "The charity gives you a sense of community and people who understand what you've been through.
"There is a CHSF Facebook page for the local community and we have met up with lots of people on there. There’s a really strong group of us now.
"I don’t think we would have met them without the charity - even though it turns out one of them only lives down the street.
"I think meeting other families and children that have had surgery has been amazing for Jess too.
The kids show each other their scars and talk about it. I think it really helps to normalise it."
She added: "It's not easy waiting for your child's operation date. You are constantly waiting for that phone call.
"I’ve spoken to a few families that have been through it and we all say the same - everyone can remember exactly where they were when they got that operation date.
"One of the best things about the charity group is that when one of the families’ is going through the surgery, all of us are able to rally around and support them as they go through it.
"We didn’t have that at the time. It’s one of the most important things we have through out of working with the charity."
Claire Roberts, acting headteacher of Greenfield Primary School, said: "The Children's Heart Surgery Fund is a charity that is very important to us at Kippax Greenfield Primary School, as we have children in school who have benefited from the support of the charity while receiving treatment.
"We will be holding a 'wear red' day to support the charity and raise awareness of congenital heart disease."
How to get involved with Wear Red Day
Anyone can get involved with Wear Red Day.
To get your local school, place of work or community group involved please sign up to CHSF’s annual Wear Red Day on Friday, February 7.
You can do this on the Children's Heart Surgery Fund website where you can also download a free fundraising pack.
If you are unable to take part in Wear Red Day but still would like to support please visit the website to make an online donation.
Alternatively, cheques can also be made payable to Children’s Heart Surgery Fund at 3 Oxford Place, Leeds, LS1 3AX. Thank you!
This is what donations could buy:
£10 - a teddy and a medal are given to each child after surgery
£30 - a birthday present for a long-term patient on the ward
£100 - one day’s attendance at a conference for a clinical staff member
£300 - an INR home-testing kit for a patient, which means they can test their blood levels at home without missing school
£650 - a trolley for some of the vital clinical equipment needed at the bedside
£35,000 - the annual upkeep of Eckersley House, the family accommodation in Leeds which keeps parents and siblings near to patients during surgery
£58,000 - An ECHO machine