A homegrown charity challenge is encouraging Leeds heart patients to feel proud of their scars – and has raised over £1,000 for a fund supporting the city’s specialist unit.
The “scar selfie” campaign was dreamt up by adult heart patient Laura Ellis as an alternative to the ice bucket challenge, the fundraising phenomenon which has swept the globe.
What started as brief mention online has spread to hundreds of people posting their photos, with donations to the Leeds-based Children’s Heart Surgery Fund topping £1,000.
Laura said: “The response was absolutely crazy – I didn’t think anyone would take any notice of it.”
The 23-year-old had her first heart surgery, to repair a leaky valve, at the age of one at the former Killingbeck Hospital.
She then needed another operation at the age of 11, when a mechanical valve was fitted at the unit which had then moved to Leeds General Infirmary.
Laura, from Grimsby, is still under the care of Leeds doctors as she is on Warfarin for life, and gave birth to her daughter Isabella at the LGI because it was a high-risk pregnancy due to her condition.
The mum suggested “scar selfies” after being unable to participate in the ice bucket challenge.
She wanted to encourage heart patients to feel more confident about their scars, so decided to show hers after being inspired by post she saw featuring a man with his covered.
“If I see people looking, I will tell them I have had heart surgery,” she said. “It’s a scar, but it saved my life.”
Laura posted her selfie on heart-related websites, including the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund group on Facebook.
“The next morning I had about 40 notifications,” she said. “I even had a lady from Australia message me.”
Laura has now set up a dedicated Facebook page.
Sharon Cheng, CEO of the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, said: ”We are absolutely blown away by the momentum that the scar selfie campaign has generated and would like to thank everyone who has got involved.
“The funds are very much appreciated and the stories that people have been sharing have been wonderful and incredibly heartfelt.
“From parents posting pictures of their children and telling how they were saved by the Leeds heart unit, to patients themselves sharing how the selfies have inspired them to feel proud of their scars, the selfies have proved a true inspiration for hundreds of heart surgery patients.”
THE HEART WARRIORS
Patients past and present have seen their “scar selfie” photos posted online.
They include nine-year-old Olivia Benn, from South Elmsall, who was born with a rare cardiac condition and shows off her scar from several open heart surgeries.
Maisie-Rae Bartley, from Huddersfield, was born with a hole in the heart and had an operation in February, at the age of three.
And one of the most recent patients is Jack Hartley, from Knaresborough. The five-month-old had surgery nine weeks ago and is recovering well.