On the 15th of February 1989 I was born at Basildon Hospital and promptly turned blue. While this may be a healthy complexion for a smurf, it's not ideal for a newborn and after some swift investigation it was discovered that I had transposition of the great vessels. In simpler terms this means that the two main vessels going into my heart were the wrong way round and there was no oxygenated blood going to my other organs. This was where my life with the Brompton began and at six hours old I was transferred over. Eight days later I had an arterial switch operation and three weeks later I finally went home. Unfortunately for me at three months I got a serious infection in my heart called bacterial endocarditis. This led to six weeks of antibiotics and more tests to see what damage it was causing. When I was 14 months old, they discovered that the infection had caused a large aneurysm in one of my heart vessels and needed fixing as soon as possible. Cue heart surgery number two!
Throughout my childhood I had routine checks to make sure that everything was ok and occasional stenting procedures to keep my vessels from blocking due to scar tissue. Through all of this I lived a normal life and aside from the giant scar down my chest, there wasn't any difference between me and my friends.
My last surgery was done nine years ago after my stamina dropped quite dramatically over the course of a year. The infection that I had when I was a baby had caused damage to one of the valves in my heart and while it was manageable while I was growing, it had declined quite a lot. To add to this I also had a blockage which meant I needed a bypass too. Welcome to open heart surgery number three!!
Since then I have been incredibly lucky and have yearly check ups to check that everything still works (my MOT as my husband calls it!) and I'm on no medication. I have also gone on to have two children which 30 years ago would have seemed like an impossible scenario, but thats the thing about me, I don't like to do what's expected!
So here I am, 30 years old, living in Worcester with my lovely family, and the trek to London for appointments suddenly seems even longer than it did, now that it's no longer just me to think about. The reality is that I will need another surgery one day and when that happens I will want the people I love to be able to visit me and that is far more difficult when I am a two and a half hour train ride away. This has spurred on the decision to transfer my care to the congenital heart team at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and also Worcestershire Royal.
I don't want to leave without doing something to say thank you for all the care I've received, so I have set myself a challenge to walk from Worcestershire Royal Hospital, to the QE in one day. 23 miles along the Worcester and Birmingham canal, with my lovely Dad keeping me company and maybe one or two other visitors if I'm lucky! I'm doing this to raise money for the patient fund, which provides patients with equipment to make their stays in hospital more comfortable and a little less scary.
If you've reached the end of this, well done and thank you! Kate Staiger