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Miracle heart op boy out to equip all schools in land with life-saving defibrillator device

BY CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

He's the miracle heart surgery survivor who wants his story to save others.

Eoghan McConville was just four when he underwent open heart surgery to treat a condition that was threatening his life.

The inspirational Belfast boy’s heart problems were detected when he was diagnosed with a heart murmur shortly after birth.

His mum Martina, from the Blacks Road area, believes this detection saved her eldest child’s life.

“If we had not found out when we did, my son would not be with us today,” she said.

“The registrar said that it was a miracle that the murmur was detected in the first place.”

Then, at three months old, Eoghan was diagnosed with a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy with an added complication of an obstruction.

This is a genetic disease of the heart muscle where the muscle wall becomes thickened. The obstruction was restricting blood from reaching his heart.

Martina and husband Damian were devastated as their first-born child was placed in the category of ‘high risk of sudden death' after that latest development.

The little boy’s obstruction was controlled to the age of four with medication.

But he then reached a critical stage when the surgeons at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast decided they had to operate on the “massive” obstruction.

Martina had given birth three weeks earlier to her second child Aodhan when Eoghan was taken in for surgery.

“I collapsed just before the doors of the theatre,” she said.

“It was so scary being surrounded by sterile equipment in the theatre and we had to hold Eoghan down while they anaesthetised him.”

The operation was a success and Eoghan is a happy boy of nine years old, although he still suffers from cardiomyopathy which is controlled by medication. He has now set his mind on raising awareness of heart conditions in a bid to help other affected families.

The schoolboy is raising awareness through a fundraising campaign called Defibs4Kids.

This is running in partnership with Eoghan’s school, St Colman’s Primary, Lambeg, where they want to buy defibrillators and provide training for staff.

Eoghan said: “There are so many people that don't know they have heart problems. I’m lucky that I know I have it and I know what to do. It’s to help people who don't know, and if they have a cardiac arrest.”

Martina said Eoghan is able to lead a normal life.

“My son's condition is the highest killer in the under-30s and the frightening thing is that statistically people have it and don't know about it until it is too late,” said Martina.

“Eoghan is a happy and mostly healthy little boy who doesn’t feel different to anyone else,” adedd Martina.

The campaign has already raised over £4,500 through a sponsored walk with guests such as Health Minister Edwin Poots and Education Minister John O' Dowd.

And Eoghan, too, completed the four-mile walk.

The McConville family want his story to be an example to others.

“I believe people take their hearts for granted,” Martina added.

THE CAMPAIGN FOR MORE DEFIBRILLATORS

Eoghan McConville’s recovery after open heart surgery inspired the launch of a campaign called ‘Defibs4kids’.

The nine-year-old’s school, St Colman’s Primary in Lambeg, is a partner in the initiative which aims to have defibrillators in all schools by 2015.

A defibrillator is a machine that delivers an electric shock to the heart when someone is having a cardiac arrest.

When someone goes into cardiac arrest, every minute without CPR and defibrillation reduces their chances of survival by 10%. A defibrillator, when used on someone in cardiac arrest, actually stops the heart for a moment with an electrical shock, allowing the cells to regain a normal heart rhythm.

It was invented by Professor Frank Pantridge, who was born near Hillsborough and died in 2004, and is used to save lives all over the world.

For more information, log on to www.defibs4kids.com.

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