A TODDLER kept alive by a machine for 255 days has finally received the gift of normal life – in the form of a donor heart.
Tiny Charleigh Thomson is this week showing signs of a successful recovery after surviving the dramatic ten and a half hour operation.
The Fishermead two-year-old was given days to live just before Christmas when her severely damaged heart began failing irreparably.
At the last minute doctors at Great Ormond Street gave the tot a reprieve by connecting her to a £100,000 Berlin heart, a machine that pumps blood artificially around the body.
For the past eight months Charleigh has stayed in hospital, connected to her mechanical heart by two metres of tubing.
Her gran Yvonne Forbes said: “The machine was the only thing keeping her alive and it was amazing.
“But we knew it could not last for ever. Every day we hoped and prayed that a donor heart would be found.”
Charleigh’s mum Christina stayed at her daughter’s side, wheeeling her and the cumbersome ‘heart’ for trips to the roof garden or park
“Charleigh became everybody’s darling. She is a little star and her smile and chatter lights up the ward,” said Yvonne.
The youngster even captured the heart of Milton Keynes’ Olympic gold medallist Greg Rutherford, who made a special trip to Great Ormond Street to visit the sick children.
“Greg was lovely. Charleigh had a special smile for him, said Yvonne.
Finally, in the early hours of the morning two weeks ago, came the call the family had been waiting for.
“It was a strange feeling. What we had been wishing for had come true but we knew it had only happened because another poor family had lost a child who was as precious as Charleigh,” said Yvonne, who will be allowed to write a letter of thanks to the anonymous donor’s family.
Charleigh, who was born with three serious heart defects, is still in intensive care but doctors hope she will be up and about within four weeks.
“After that, the doctors say she will lead a perfectly normal active life. We are just grateful beyond words,” said Yvonne.
She and Christina are urging everybody to sign the NHS Organ Donor Register to save other children like Charleigh.
You can do this online at www.uktransplant.org.uk/ukt/Consent.do or call the 24-hour a day organ donor line on 0300 123 23 23.