Tom from North Walsham defies heart problem to be a sporting star
A courageous North Walsham teenager is calling the shots in the sporting world - despite a lifelong battle with a dangerous heart condition.
Tom Wardle had open-heart surgery twice before he was 18 months old, and faces annual hospital trips and possible future operations.
But the 13-year-old has shrugged off his difficulties to play as a striker for North Walsham under-13s - and make a name for himself playing table tennis against adults for North Walsham Sports Centre.
Now his proud mum Karen is beginning a fundraising mission to drum up cash for Great Ormond Street Hospital, as a thank you for the support and skill shown by its staff since Tom was born.
On February 23, she is organising a “posh” jumble sale at The Atrium.
It will be followed by a fundraising afternoon at North Walsham’s Orchard Gardens in March.
In June, she is planning to embark on a big challenge – joining the London to Paris cycle ride.
Mrs Wardle said: “It’s wonderful to see Tom doing so well. He’s absolutely amazing. He’s got a lot more energy than me.
“I remember when he was a baby, all wired up in intensive care. It was very distressing. To see him now, we wouldn’t have believed it.”
She added: “The staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital have been incredible, and I just want to do something to help others in this situation.”
Tom, who has a condition called Fallot’s tetralogy, which sees his arteries narrow, lives at Burton Avenue with his mum, dad Alan, twin sister Alice and 18-year-old brother Jack.
He and Alice were born six weeks early in 2000, and a check up identified that Tom had a heart murmur.
When he was about six months old, he began to have spells where he became blue and was given medication.
Then it was decided to fully repair his heart, and he had open-heart surgery before he was one and again a few months later.
Mrs Wardle said: “It was a very worrying time. And we had no family down here at the time.”
The Wardles lived in North Walsham, but decided to move to Redcar in Cleveland to be close to relatives.
They continued to take Tom to Great Ormond Street Hospital, where he had check-ups and other less invasive operations.
In December 2006, the family moved back to North Walsham, since when Tom has not had to have any more operations.
But he is on the verge of outgrowing a stent that he had fitted some years ago, and could soon have to have it replaced. A operation to repair a leaking valve could also be on the cards.
Mrs Wardle said: “He just gets on with his life and is doing so well.”
The posh jumble sale is from 10am at The Atrium at Spenser Avenue on February 23, while the date for the event at the Orchard Gardens on Mundesley Road is still to be confirmed.
● To offer help or donate items for either of the events, call Mrs Wardle on 07979 216289.