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Why February 14 is not just about Valentine's Day

PUBLISHED: 09:53 12 February 2018 | UPDATED: 10:00 12 February 2018

Young Elijah, who was born with a congenital heart defect (CHD). Picture: VICKI COCKERILL.

Young Elijah, who was born with a congenital heart defect (CHD). Picture: VICKI COCKERILL.

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In her latest column, Dereham resident VICKI COCKERILL explains why February 14 isn't just about Valentine's Day...

Young Elijah, who was born with a congenital heart defect (CHD). Picture: VICKI COCKERILL.Young Elijah, who was born with a congenital heart defect (CHD). Picture: VICKI COCKERILL.

It’s that time of year again when the shops are filled with stuffed ladybirds and boxes of Dairy Milk. It’s where my partner once said Morrisons at 6pm on Valentine’s evening was a scene of frantic partners grabbing the last Hallmark cards and fighting for the last bunch of wilting flowers in an apocalyptic like riot.

Although we will acknowledge Valentine’s Day, for us, February 14 and proceeding week before it is all about CHD awareness.

Young Elijah, who was born with a congenital heart defect (CHD). Picture: VICKI COCKERILL.Young Elijah, who was born with a congenital heart defect (CHD). Picture: VICKI COCKERILL.

CHD awareness.

On February 14 many heart families like my own will be celebrating CHD Awareness Day.

Congenital Heart Defects are the most common birth defect, around 1 in 111 babies are born with some form of CHD. That’s roughly 12 babies a day according to heart charity Tiny Tickers.

Vicki Cockerill, parenting columnist. Photo: Vicki CockerillVicki Cockerill, parenting columnist. Photo: Vicki Cockerill

The odds.

One in 111 seem like okay odds? Chances are you won’t be affected? My son was that singular statistic.

Elijah was born in 2014 after a complication free pregnancy. Twelve hours post birth we were still in hospital, turns out this saved his life. He began to have “dusky” episodes - he was turning blue.

After being admitted to the Neo Natal Intensive Care Unit for assessment he would stay here for another nine days fighting for his life. It was here 24 hours later we were given the devastating blow that Elijah had numerous structural abnormalities wrong with his heart. A CHD called Tetralogy of Fallot. He had a hole in his heart and a narrowing valve which meant de oxygenated blood “leaked” back causing the episodes. Surgery would be needed before his 1st birthday.

Surgery.

From being on the high of just welcoming my first son I was now watching him fight for his life not knowing if he would survive. If we would even get to bring him home. What life would he have? When would the surgery be? Elijah however fought back and in just nine days was discharged to come home under the care of the NICU Outreach.

Team.

Surgery was scheduled for April 2015, Elijah was six months old. He would have a full repair done via open heart surgery. They would break his sternum, patch the hole, cut away excess muscle and try to save the narrowing valve. If they couldn’t a replacement would be fitted.

Consent.

I signed the consent papers, held him as they put him to sleep and they took him away.

Five hours later he was in recovery.

Five days later we were home.

Three years later I have a happy and mischievous toddler determined on becoming a firefighter.

Our story is just one of many and CHD affects so many families. Weeks like #chdawarenessweek are so important. To educate, to raise awareness and to carry on the amazing work those pioneers before us have done. Elijah’s surgery has only been around since the 1960s and in that time, it has been perfected, improved upon and because of this I have my little boy here today.

So, on February 14 when you see a heart, think CHD.

For more information and in spotting heart failure in babies, or how you can “Think Heart” at the 20-week scan visit:

http://www.tinytickers.org/

https://www.bhf.org.uk

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