Love has been a guiding light for a Huddersfield mum and son who were both born with a hole in the heart.

Hollie Fawcett and Skye Shepherd from Clayton West were both diagnosed with Atrial Septal Defect 14 years apart.

And Hollie and fiancé Kris Shepherd believe that the support they got the from Leeds Congenital Hearts was invaluable in helping them through the toughest times, after Hollie and Skye were both treated in the same ward.

Leeds Congenital Hearts is the NHS paediatric cardiothoracic service at Leeds General Infirmary which encompasses primarily the identification, diagnosis and medical/surgical treatment of congenital heart disease, arrhythmias and acquired heart disease.

Hollie and Skye were just two of 530 babies born with the congenital condition each year — or roughly one in every 1,500 births — which takes root during the early stages of development during the womb and leads to a hole between two chambers, which causes blood to flow wrongly.

Hollie underwent an operation to close the hole in her heart when she was six-years-old, one year after the diagnosis.

If not treated, the condition can lead to a host of other serious conditions, which include irregular heart rhythms, strokes and even partial heart failure.

Not known to be a genetic defect, Hollie and Kris said that they were then understandably ‘devastated’ when 11-month-old Skye — their first child — was found to have the same condition when they attended a scheduled heart check-up with LGI heart specialists at Barnsley Hospital in April when he was only nine months old.

It was one that a spokesperson for the British Heart Foundation said was to ‘be commended’, as due to the lack of genetic links they are not routinely offered.

Kris, who lives with Hollie and Skye in Church Lane, said: “Knowing what Hollie had been through when we got the diagnosis we were just in shock. We had noticed that he had become unwell — he was getting really tired, sweaty and hadn’t gained any weight, but we didn’t know exactly what was wrong.

“It was all very manic because we were told to go straight from Barnsley to LGI to be assessed.

“He had an ECG and then we were told that he would have to undergo the operation to close his heart that same month.

“It was very terrifying to see our baby boy going through so much so young.”

Although Hollie went on to lead a totally normal life after her operation, it was found that Skye not only had an ASD but also an extremely rare heart condition which can only be treated, not cured.

Yet Kris said that since the operation to close the hole in Skye’s heart he has continued to amaze doctors with his progress.

He said: “Since his operation Skye has continued to amaze doctors and has not needed to start any treatment. He does, however, need constant monitoring from Leeds Congenital Hearts.

“The whole experience was very tough, but we couldn’t have been looked after better by staff in the hospital — they were unbelievable.

“They understood what we were going through and the surgeons explained everything to us really clearly and being with other families in the same position was really helpful too.”

He underwent a tense four-hour operation on April 24, but has so far come on leaps and bounds in his health.

Kris, 28, said: “He’s doing well at the moment and isn’t on medication and even went to nursery for the first time this week.

“All doctors can do now is monitor his condition through regular check ups with heart specialists and provide support to us.”

The main focus for Hollie and Kris now is to ensure that as many people as possible know how well they were supported by the hospital’s paediatric heart unit which was forced to suspend surgery in March 2013 while experts carried out an urgent review following fears over a high number of patient deaths.

 

It was also one of the centres previously put under threat of closure by health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, until the plan was scrapped last June.

They have launched their own Justgiving page, which they will use to help raise money for the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund which provides equipment and staff for the heart unit.

Kris will be the first to raise money for the cause when he takes on the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge in under 12 hours on July 18.

Kris said: “Everyone who helped us at the LGI was fantastic and without it we would have had an even more challenging time.

“Now that the unit has helped both Hollie and Skye we want to give something back to them to say thanks, so have started up a campaign.

“We hope that we can do our bit to help it offer the same service to others as it did to us and raise awareness of the good work that’s done there every day.”

To make a donation to CHSF, see: www.justgiving.com/Skye-Shepherd or text 70070 with SKYE97 and the amount you wish to donate.

Atrial septal defect factfile

-an atrial septal defect is a hole in the membrane that separates the top two chambers of the heart.

-This causes some oxygenated blood from the left atrium to flow through the hole into the right atrium, where it mixes with oxygen-poor blood and flows around the body and lungs.

-Children with the defect may only show mild symptoms of having a heart condition, or may not have any symptoms at all. Large defects can cause extra strain on the heart by causing the right hand side of the heart to stretch. Babies with large defects may be breathless and struggle to feed and gain weight and older children may show a reduced tolerance for exercise.

-Not all children suffering with the condition need to undergo an operation. Some smaller holes may close on their own after a few years but larger ones usually need to be treated.

-Those with larger holes may need key hole surgery known as cardiac catheterisation or open-heart surgery to close the hole, depending on the position of the defect and any associated tissue damage..

-The long-term outlook for most ASDs is very good, regardless of whether they require cardiac catheterisation or heart surgery, although they will usually require regular check-ups as an outpatient to monitor their progress. Most children do not need further surgery, and go on to lead normal healthy lives.