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I was born with a hole in my heart. Therefore, I had a paediatric cardiologist who checked up on me regularly. When I was almost 9, in January 2016, he found something that wasn't meant to be there. Soon after that, I was checked up on in Cardiff Hospital. We found out , with their superior technology, that there was an obstruction in my heart. More checkups, more doctors, more tests followed this.
They told me that I had to have major heart surgery because I had a muscle bundle in the right ventricle of my heart that was blocking the outflow of blood. Blood from the right ventricle flows into the pulmonary artery and then to the lungs, allowing it to be re-oxygenated. It’s then returned to the left side of the heart to be pumped around the rest of the body.
A blockage to the pulmonary artery meant my heart had to work much harder. That’s painful and it made me get out of breath more quickly. When I got out of breath, unlike everyone else in my class, it was heavy, heavy breathing that went on for minutes at a time. But the heart is a muscle – the harder it works, the more the muscle develops, and thus the more the muscle bundle blocked the outflow. So I required surgery to open up the heart and release that muscle bundle.
I'm sure you can imagine the impact this had on my life. Months passed. February, March. My birthday. I couldn't go abroad. All the while, struggling to keep up with my friends. April, May. Sports Day, coming last in every race. My class cheering me on as I ran.
Two weeks before my op, a letter from GOSH arrived, bringing with it the date for my operation and a booklet about Sammy's heart surgery. Sammy, apparently, was not at all nervous about having surgery, and his toy elephant, which followed him to ICU, seemed to appear in every picture.
I remember being told as we sat outdoors in the warm evening. As I have said many times, to many people, instead of crying or something like that, I started giggling hysterically. I think it was the shock. The next two weeks felt like a dream. I received many gifts. A fluffy toy dog from a girl who always seemed to look down on me. Drawings from a boy who had ignored me up until now. My class made me a card and everyone signed it. They threw me a good luck party. To this day, I still remember my teacher's kindness and support.
Finally in London, on the day before my op, there were numerous tests in GOSH. Needles, cold jelly, stickers.
On Friday, the day of my op, and also the day before my mum's birthday, we walked to GOSH. I remember struggling to just do this, and feeling utterly helpless. The rest is a blur. An oxygen mask, nurses, my teddy, the amazing anaesthetist who had me giggling to sleep. Afterwards, dark, lying there for hours, not even swallowing. Trying to sleep. Being woken up at one o'clock to do a test. The chest drains being pulled out of my body, and crying because I was so thirsty, and it hurt.
But anyway, the staff were amazing. If anyone who is reading this works in Great Ormond Street - the surgeons, the doctors, nurses, anaesthetists, even the cleaners - you should feel proud. You are amazing, and I hope you carry on doing what you are doing. I cannot put my thanks into words, so I will put it into my actions. This is my way of saying thank you.
I'm walking across the Malvern Hills, about 9 miles. There is a funny sort of significance to this. They were the first hills I walked up after my op. It felt so free.
This is why we should do everything to save lives. Maybe for GOSH it was just another child, another surgery, another routine. But if this is what they do, I, for one, think that, in every way we can, we should help them do it.