Birthday milestone for woman saved by Leeds heart surgeons as week old baby

A woman who had lifesaving open heart surgery at a Leeds hospital as a one week old baby said she is forever grateful as she celebrates her 30th birthday year with a fundraising challenge.

By Mark Lavery
Tuesday, 6th April 2021, 6:00 pm
Philippa Barraclough Photo: Gary Longbottom

Philippa Barraclough was born with congenital heart disease and had two holes in her heart and a faulty aorta

Her mum Teresa said doctors feared her daughter may not survive.

At just a week old, Philippa underwent an eight hour operation to repair the defects at the former specialist heart unit at Killingbeck Hospital on August 21 1991.

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Philippa Barraclough pictured after her heart surgery at Killingbeck Hospital when she was a one week old baby.

Mum Teresa, 61, said: "Her heart was the size of a strawberry and there were two little holes they had to patch up.

"They were miracle workers. The skill to be able to do that is just amazing."

The Leeds Children's Heart Surgery Fund arranged a family room so Philippa's family could be with her at the hospital as she recovered.

Philippa, who in normal times works in retail in Leeds city centre, has battled a string of health complications throughout her life including visual impairments and scoliosis - curvature of the spine.

Philippa Barraclough Photo: Gary Longbottom

Philippa, 29, said she is forever thankful to the NHS and the surgeons who saved her life.

She has just completed a mammoth cycling challenge and has embarked on a second - all without leaving her garage.

Philippa has used an exercise bike to travel 667 miles for a virtual tour of hospitals in England with specialist heart units.

She has raised more than £1,100 to be split between the British Heart Foundation and the Children's Heart Surgery Fund in Leeds.

Philippa Barraclough pictured after her heart surgery at Killingbeck Hospital when she was a one week old baby.

Philippa has now started a 524 mile virtual cycle tour of rugby league clubs.

Philippa, who had the heart surgery on her brother Isaac's fifth birthday, said she will be raising a toast on her 30th birthday on August 13 to the surgeon's who saved her life - Dr Waterson and Dr Dickenson.

She said: "Unless you have been through it you can never know fully how wonderful it is to be able to say ‘I am still here.'

"Reflecting on all of this as I turn 30 is overwhelming. It fills me with so much happiness and a feeling of gratitude.

"By raising money and awareness for the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund and The British Heart Foundation I hope to be able to show how thankful we are at how lucky I am."

Sharon Milner, chief executive officer of the Children's Heart Surgery Fund, said: “Philippa is a true heart warrior and a terrific advocate, and we are delighted by the virtual fundraising challenges she has undertaken during lockdown.”

“Her story brings home the plight of the one in 100 babies that are born with heart defects, and it is thanks to the tenacity of supporters like Philippa that we can continue supporting the Leeds Congenital Heart Unit as a world-class centre of excellence.”

“She is a brilliant role model for younger patients, and we all wish her well in her 30th birthday year."

To donate to Phillipa's fundraising efforts via Virgin Money Giving, click here.