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Hole-in-heart tot Sorcha Friel set for lifesaving surgery

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 05/06/2015

Poppi Lennox and daughter Sorcha head over to London at the end of the month
Poppi Lennox and daughter Sorcha head over to London at the end of the month

A brave toddler is preparing to make the journey to a London hospital for lifesaving surgery after experts discovered a growing hole in her heart.

When Sorcha Friel was born doctors thought the now 19-month-old had a heart murmur. However, she was later diagnosed with the more serious condition.

Her 22-year-old mother Poppi Lennox, from Coleraine, hopes the open-heart surgery will transform her daughter's life.

The little girl, along with her mum and 24-year old dad Paul, will fly to Evelina London Children's Hospital, which is part of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, on June 28, two days before the operation.

Poppi, a hairdresser, said that despite the last year being a "rollercoaster" she was optimistic the surgery would help her daughter.

"We were first told she had a heart murmur and not to be too worried," Poppi explained. "But they kept checking her and when they scanned her at about six months they found it was a hole. It was hoped the hole would close itself over time, but it was in fact getting bigger and is 20mm now."

"It didn't really kick in how serious it was until my mum spoke to me."

Poppi was also born with an open heart valve as well as the murmur, but she has not needed treatment for either.

Her mum said that since being told Sorcha needed the operation, she had received a great deal of support from the Children's Heartbeat Trust.

"I was just shocked when they told us two months ago we would be going to London," she added.

"I know they don't have the facilities in Belfast, but we had thought she might be going to Dublin, but the Heartbeat Trust has been fantastic.

"They had suggested meeting another parent from the area who is going through the same thing. I wasn't sure at first, but I went with my mum and I was able to meet other parents whose children have had up to five operations. It was really helpful to talk to them."

The family has been warned the surgery will take a number of hours and that Sorcha will be in intensive care afterwards.

"They might be keeping her a week, but it could be longer if there are any complications," Poppi said.

"The paramedics will be flying back with us and will go straight to Clark Clinic in the Royal Victoria Hospital. I am hoping that Sorcha won't need any more operations after this, but if she does, she does, and we will take each thing as it comes."

US experts made the recommendations to scrap children's heart surgery in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital and redirect them to a new all-island service in Our Lady's Hospital, Dublin. But specialist services will still be provided in Belfast for the hundreds of youngsters diagnosed with life-threatening defects.

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