Published: Wednesday 16th April 2008
Mum says all babies should have heart check
As her son recovers from a life-saving heart operation, one mother is urging everyone in the town to sign a petition to make sure babies are given a compulsary echocardiogram after birth.
Helen Howarth’s son Alex, aged three, was born with a rare variation of Di George Syndrome called tetrology of fallot, or blue baby syndrome. This means that there are four problems with his heart and without major surgery his life expectancy is low.
On Tuesday Alex underwent a full heart reconstruction.
For his mum, Helen, aged 25, and dad, Stephen, aged 27, one thing that is helping them cope with their son’s medical problems is their focus on lobbying the Government to give all newborns an ECG to detect hidden heart problems.
Within the first 24 hours of Alex’s life he suffered three heart attacks and had to have a pioneering operation – the first of its kind in the UK, called a bypass shunt.
While Helen and Stephen waited in Alder Hey Children’s Hospital they met Sam Mercer, whose newborn daughter Amelia had the same heart condition as Alex.
Sam and Amelia had been sent home from hospital with a clean bill of health, only for Amelia to fall unconscious days later.
Since then Sam has launched a campaign to ensure that every single baby is given an echocardiogram before they leave hospital.
An echocardiogram, or ECG, gives a picture of the heart, similar to an ultrasound, to detect abnormalities.
“It only takes 10 minutes to give a child an ECG and it could save so many lives,” said Helen, from Sandy Lane, Orford.
“So many babies are born with heart problems that doctors don’t pick up until they collapse or die,” she said.
To sign the petition, click here
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Thank you to Helen Howarth for giving me permission to use her story.