Tot Sorcha flies off for an op that could save her life
Clutching her favourite cuddly toys, a comfort blanket and her passport, cute little hole-in-the heart girl Sorcha Friel set off yesterday on a journey of hope to London where surgeons will carry out an operation which could save her life.
Waved off from her Coleraine home by family, friends and well-wishers, Sorcha, just 20 months old, smiled and laughed as she was driven to George Best City Airport with mother Poppi Lennox and father Paul Friel.
Doctors, who diagnosed a heart murmur soon after Sorcha was born, later carried out a scan and found a hole in her heart which has been growing ever since and is now 20mm.
On Tuesday, medics at Evelina Children's Hospital, part of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust at Westminster, will perform open-heart surgery.
Hairdresser Poppi and meat plant worker Paul are worried but Poppi said: "It's vital for Sorcha to receive the surgery now.
"The surgery will probably last over five hours and afterwards Sorcha will have to go into intensive care. We don't know how long it will be before Sorcha is well enough to return home.
"But the plan is for us to return by air ambulance with paramedics looking after Sorcha before she goes into the Clark Clinic at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast."
The Children's Heartbeat Trust for Northern Ireland has provided the family with financial assistance for the London trip and Sorcha's parents have returned the compliment.
"We've already raised £2,500 for the charity through coffee mornings, barbecues, quizzes and football tournaments," said Paul. "It was the least we could do. They have been fantastic with all their support and guidance, plus directing us to meet other families who have come through all this."
Sorcha is taking everything in her stride, according to Poppi.
"She's fine just so long as she has her special toys with her, including her little doctor's set!"