I was born in April 1980. When I was three weeks old my mum took me to a routine health visitor appointment at the clinic. The health visitor noticed that my breathing didn’t seem right. I was drawing in my sides when breathing in, my breath was shallow, and my cry was weak. I was taken to Birmingham Children’s hospital and was then transferred to Harefield hospital. 

Tests revealed a diagnosis of coarctation of the aorta with subclavian flap and ligation of the patent ductus arteriosus. I also have a hole in my heart and a heart murmur. I was operated on by Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub to repair the coarctation in May 1980. He used one of the blood vessels from my left arm to repair the narrowing of my aorta. Renowned for pioneering new procedures, Sir Magdi used a relatively new technique when he operated on me. remained in hospital for ten days following the operation and then returned for lots of check-ups at Harefield during the first year of my life. 

Since then I have had annual check-ups in the congenital heart defect clinic at Harefield hospital and now at the adult congenital heart defect clinic at the Royal Brompton hospital.  

In 2013 had a thoracic aortic stent fitted at St Mary’s hospital. I have regular MRI scansat the Royal Brompton and during one they noticed that I had developed a small aortic aneurysm. They kept monitoring, and after I had my son another MRI scan revealed it had increased in size so I was told I would need a stentThe doctors told me that they are starting to notice an increase in similar cases of aneurysms developing in people who have had the same operation to repair the coarctation. 

I still have a hole in my heart but my annual check-ups show that my heart is working as it should be. I feel very lucky and grateful that the operation Magdi Yacoub performed went well and has enabled me to live a very normal life. My heart condition has never prevented me from doing things and I have always done a lot of sport, including running two marathons. I now have two children and although I was monitored during pregnancy and birth at the Chelsea & Westminster and Brompton joint high-risk clinic, both pregnancies were uneventful and early heart scans on both children showed no heart conditions present. 

The care and treatment I have received at Harefield and the Royal Brompton has always been first class. The cardiologists have always been available to answer any questions that I or other health professionals have had about my condition and I am very grateful for the surgery that Sir Magdi and his team carried out on me as a baby and also Mr Bicknell at St Mary’s in 2013.  

I feel very grateful for everything the staff at Harefield and the Royal Brompton have done for me and I want to say thank you to them. When I was growing up my parents told me that if I had been born ten years earlier I wouldn’t have survived. They feel very grateful that my operation was carried out by the specialist team at Harefield, and by Magdi Yacoub, who apparently came in especially on a Sunday to carry out my operationMy parents feel very honoured that he did this for us. 

I now work as a Speech and Language Therapist for the NHS and it is my experience of the NHS throughout my life that inspired me to join the healthcare profession and be able to help others as others have helped me. 

This September I'm taking part in the Charity's Team Heart vs Team Lungs virtual challenge, running for Team Heart of course, to say thanks for the phenomenal care I've received from Royal Brompton and Harefield over the years. I’m really looking forward to the challenge, which I am taking part in along with my parents, my husband and my 9-year-old son. I support the charity whenever I can and have previously taken part in the Harefield fun runs and also raised money for the charity running the London Marathon. I'm happy to take part and know my efforts will go to providing cardiology departments with the equipment they need to care for more people like me. 

Rachel has benefitted from the expertise of cath lab staff, as they performed diagnostic procedures to make sure she received the most appropriate surgery. Support our Lifeline Lab and Life in Focus appeals to buy state of the art cardiovascular scanning equipment for each hospital, and you can help people born with heart defects, like Rachel, to lead a full life.