Family of teenager on his third pacemaker back Belfast Telegraph fundraising appeal
The family of a young boy fighting a congenital heart condition are backing our campaign to raise funds for vital cardiac research.
The Belfast Telegraph's Baby Hearts Appeal, in association with Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke, aims to make congenital cardiac conditions a thing of the past.
Our target is to get 800 people to donate to the cause and become friends of the appeal.
Carol Cully got the shock of her life when she went for her 21-week scan during her fourth pregnancy and nurses could not find a heartbeat.
With three healthy children, the Banbridge woman said she had no reason to suspect anything might be wrong.
She said it was a big shock: "They wanted to deliver but it was too early. So I was moved to the Royal Maternity, where doctors found a weak heartbeat and gave me injections to mature the baby's lungs.
"They didn't give us much hope for him, but he was finally born at 35 weeks by Caesarean section."
Two hours after he was born, baby Matthew had a pacemaker inserted into his chest and was in intensive care for three weeks.
He is now 13 years-old and currently on his third pacemaker.
He has also had surgery to repair a hole in his heart, as well as an operation to deal with a condition called double inlet left ventricle.
The brave young lad still faces further surgery. Carol said it is a condition that affects every aspect of her son's life.
"Day to day, he gets very tired and breathless.
"He's tired during the day and doesn't sleep at night, so he finds it hard to get up for school.
"He always feels cold and suffers quite a lot of chest infections, which is very hard on him.
"The fact that he has asthma as well doesn't help," she said.
Matthew's situation also led to Carol's husband David making the difficult decision to give up work.
"When I was at work, my mind just wasn't on it," he said.
"I had to give up because I couldn't cope.
"We've been through a lot and there's more to go."
A spokeswoman from the charity said: "The campaign aims to unlock the mysteries of congenital heart disease and benefit children not just in Northern Ireland, but worldwide.
"NI Chest, Heart and Stroke is supporting it with £172,000 and we hope to raise at least £20,000 of that before Christmas."
"This research is so important," Carol added. "It's only when it's happened to your own child that you realise how important. Please just give, give, give."
• Congenital heart disease is the most commonly occurring serious congenital abnormality affecting children.
• Congenital heart disease is one of the most common birth defects and affects between eight and 10 out of every 1,000 babies.
• In Northern Ireland, 200-plus babies a year are born with congenital heart disease.
ABOUT OUR APPEAL...AND WHAT YOU CAN DO
OUR AIM: to help fund Belfast-based research into congenital heart disease in babies by raising at least £20,000 through our campaign
OUR TARGET: to enlist 800 supporters who will donate £25 each, covering research costs for 110 babies in Northern Ireland
HOW TO HELP: you can make a donation via www.nichs.org.uk/baby or alternatively telephone 028 9180 2080
USE YOUR COUPON: just print out the coupon below , fill in your details below and send it to the address at the bottom to make a contribution to this vital three-year study