Former Caister bobby in race against time to save African boy - can you help?

A former Norfolk police officer has begun a race against time to save an African boy who could die from a heart condition that is treatable in the UK.

Phil Feller, a beat bobby in Caister, near Great Yarmouth, for more than 20 years, runs a charity supporting blind children in the Gambia with his wife Joan, and 12-year-old Modou Lamin Saidy is the son of one of their loyal African helpers.

Mr Feller, 64, who still works in an administrative role at Yarmouth police station, said the boy, who is now too ill to go to school and becomes breathless at the slightest exertion, urgently needs the mitral valve in his heart repaired or replaced.

Tests being carried out later this month at a hospital in Dakar, in neighbouring Senegal, will reveal the gravity of his condition and how much time he has got before the operation becomes essential.

Mr Feller, of Humber Close, Caister, said: 'The Chain of Hope charity will fund the operation and three weeks' stay in London but I need to raise at least �2,000 for the air fares and money to help support them when they are here.'

The Fellers began their quest to build a desperately needed school for blind children following a holiday trip to the west African country's capital Banjul nearly 20 years ago.

Modou's father Lamin Saidy, a taxi driver, has helped support the school and the Feller's charity, Friends of Visually Impaired Children in the Gambia, for 15 years.

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Mr Feller said the heart condition had struck down Modou only months after Lamin's eldest son Ebrama died of malaria.

He said: 'When I was out in the Gambia in April I paid my respects at the graveside of Ebrama, who was 18 and looking forward to college before he died, and I promised myself then that I would try to help little Modou.'

Mr Feller's first step was to contact two doctors at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, Tony and Jenny Cole, who had visited their Gambian school in the past.

'They made a lot of inquiries and said I should contact Great Ormond Street Hospital. I spoke to a cardiologist there who put me in touch with the Chain of Hope charity,' he said.

'They needed all his medical records and the reason Modou is going to the hospital in Dakar is to have a fresh echo scan.'

He said depending on the results, he might have to go to London airport to pick up Modou and his father within days.

Yarmouth police officers had offered their support and Insp Nick Cheshire was organising a sponsored cycle ride.

Anyone wanting to support the appeal is asked to call the Fellers on 01493-721506 or email

Cheques can be made out to Friends of Visually Impaired Children in The Gambia and sent to 1 Humber Close, Caister, near Yarmouth NR30 5UF. Mrs Feller is setting up a special sub-account.

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