Charity warns over child heart defects ahead of campaign

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Nearly 400 children a year in the UK will not get the chance to have their first day at school because they die young from heart defects, a charity has warned.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said another 4,000 children with birth heart problems will be starting school next week, and many will struggle with the demands of the classroom because of their condition.

The warnings come as the charity launches its ‘Bag it Beat it’ campaign, urging people to donate their old clothes to raise funds for groundbreaking new research into heart problems.

Vicky Harris, 41, whose 10-year-old son Daniel had to undergo surgery after doctors discovered a 10mm hole in his heart, said research was desperately needed to ensure more children live for longer.

The football-mad youngster was diagnosed with a small hole in his heart when he was three years old, but this healed and his parents thought he was out of danger.

But Mrs Harris, a mother-of-two, said she and her husband Ray were terrified when doctors spotted a far bigger hole during a routine scan last July, and said their eldest son’s life expectancy would be cut in half unless he had open-heart surgery.

Daniel underwent open-heart surgery which went well, and the young Crystal Palace fan was out of hospital in four days, returned to school in six weeks, and back playing his beloved football with his friends in three months.

Mrs Harris said: “Daniel was so brave. I was crying and worried, but he just took it in his stride. We were so proud of him. And he recovered so quickly.

“But not all children get to have their first special day at school. The British Heart Foundation is so well known for supporting older people, but it is so important they get funding for research into how to do open heart surgery safely on children.”