PARENTS Andrew and Zoe Hill want to raise awareness of congenital heart defects to help other families who could face the same anguish they have endured.
The Hills were overjoyed when their daughter Amelia was born at Leighton Hospital in October 2012, weighing in at a healthy 7lb 7oz.
However, within two days Amelia had been diagnosed with serious heart defects, and had been transferred to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.
Her devastated parents were told she would require open heart surgery, but it would need to be delayed until she was older.
Keyhole surgery was performed at that stage to keep a heart duct open, and in January Amelia, who is now 17 months old, underwent open heart surgery.
Her kidneys failed, she had a pacemaker fitted and one of her lungs collapsed, but three months on she is recovering well at home, a lively, bubbly toddler with a normal, healthy life ahead of her.
Andrew and Zoe live in Gladstone Street, Northwich, and praised the life-saving treatment and care their daughter received at Leighton and Alder Hey.
“Amelia would not be here today had it not been for Leighton picking up on her heart murmur and Alder Hey’s expertise,” said Andrew, 24, who works for Barclays Bank at Gadbrook Park as a specialist support analyst.
“The hospitals saved her life, and we want to raise awareness of congenital heart defects and to encourage parents to be vigilant and to make sure their children are checked.
“Amelia’s condition was not detected until after she was born, and was picked up when they found what they thought was a heart murmur when the doctor came round to do their initial checks.
“We were lucky it was picked up at birth, and we want to make people aware that this condition could affect any child.
“We were told by Alder Hey because of Amelia’s condition the amount of surgery was complex and to expect a rollercoaster of high days and low days.
“It has been a very stressful time, although we can now start to enjoy normal family life.”
Zoe, 27, works in the customer services department at Waitrose in Northwich, and said the past 18 months had been a period of constant worry.
She said: “I want to thank our parents and families, who have supported us so much. We wouldn’t have been able to cope without them.”
Amelia was rushed to Leighton’s special baby care unit when her heart murmur was detected.
It was discovered her oxygen levels were low, and she was taken to Alder Hey the next day as her condition worsened.
Doctors discovered she had a number of serious heart defects including a hole in the heart and an enlarged pulmonary valve.
“We were in tears when we were told the seriousness of Amelia’s condition,” said Andrew.
“We had gone from the high of having a new baby to being told your child is very ill.”
Amelia was too small for open heart surgery at that stage, so doctors inserted a stent, a small piece of metal, in her heart to hold a duct open.
The stent lasted for 15 months before Amelia underwent surgery to reconstruct her heart.
The surgery lasted eight hours, during which she was placed on a heart bypass machine for four hours.
A day after the surgery her kidneys failed and she was put on dialysis, the next day she had a pacemaker fitted because of irregular heartbeats and the following day she was placed on a ventilator when her lung collapsed.
Two weeks after surgery she was taken off dialysis and came out of intensive care, and after a further two weeks was allowed home.
Amelia is on Warfarin for six months, after which she will be off all medication.
She will have check-ups every three months until a teenager, six-monthly until an adult and then every year.
The couple, who married last August, praised the help available from Lagan’s Foundation, a national charity which offers emotional and physical support to parents at home and in hospital with babies and children under five with heart defects or feeding difficulties.