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Brave tot Olivia to spend her first Christmas in hospital bed after heart surgery


Diane and Peter Gilmour with daughter Olivia in the Royal Victoria Hospital

Diane and Peter Gilmour with daughter Olivia in the Royal Victoria Hospital

Diane and Peter Gilmour with daughter Olivia in the Royal Victoria Hospital

A child's first Christmas is a landmark event - but Olivia Gilmour will spend her special day in hospital.

At just 16-weeks old, the tiny tot is recovering from heart surgery and will mark the special occasion at Clark Clinic at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

Little Olivia was born at Antrim Area Hospital on September 2 and diagnosed with a congenital heart defect - double outlet right ventricle.

Just a matter of weeks ago, she was transferred by air ambulance to the Evelina London Children's Hospital where she underwent a four-hour operation on her heart, and she faces further surgery in 2017.

While she has returned to Northern Ireland, she still isn't well enough to celebrate Christmas Day at the family home in Cullybackey, Co Antrim.

Her mum, 34-year-old Diane, explained: "The pregnancy was normal and it was just when she was having her final check before being discharged that they realised there was a problem.

"A junior doctor noticed a murmur and called for the senior consultant to come and look.

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"They did a video link with the Royal and we were told what was wrong and that she would need surgery.

"She was transferred up to the Royal the next day. Her first trip out was in an ambulance."

Olivia has already spent the majority of her life in hospital. While she was allowed home, she was rushed back to hospital in November after her condition suddenly worsened.

"Because of her heart condition she has problems with her respiratory rate and we were taking her back to the hospital because of that when she started having a seizure," said dad, 38-year-old Peter.

"It wasn't pleasant, we thought she was going to die. She turned blue. Thankfully the man on reception at the hospital rushed us straight through when we arrived. We're so thankful for him, and she was in resus for two hours."

In December, a decision was taken to transfer Olivia to London for surgery to slow down the blood flow in her heart.

This will allow her to put on weight to enable her to go through the operation she needs to repair her heart.

The journey to England was nerve-racking and Olivia was sedated throughout.

Peter added: "It's terrible that they don't do children's heart surgery in Northern Ireland. It's a stressful enough experience to then have to be away from home where you don't know anyone."

Diane said: "It was so hard handing her over for the surgery and seeing her afterwards wasn't easy either.

"Although it probably wasn't as traumatic as it could have been as we have already seen her in intensive care with all the tubes.

"The operation has been a success so far and her breathing has definitely improved.

"She is a lot more settled and she is even smiling. We are hoping we might be able to get her home for a few hours on Christmas Day, but that really depends.

"She is being tube fed at the moment and we have to be trained in how to do that otherwise she will spend the entire day in hospital.

"Santa will be coming to her in the hospital and we have already had a hamper for her from the Children's Heartbeat Trust.

"They have been so supportive and the staff here have been brilliant too. It's not ideal that she is spending her first Christmas in hospital, but she is definitely doing better and we will make the best out of it."

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