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Sunday, 26 October 2014

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Katelyn in desperate heart plea

TIME is running out to find a donor for an eight-year-old Whitehaven girl who urgently needs a life-saving heart transplant.

Katelyn McAleavy photo
Katelyn McAleavy and mum Amy Lamb

The family of Katelyn McAleavy say their little girl suffers from a serious heart defect which means only half of it works properly.

After four major operations, including having a pacemaker fitted, the family received the devastating news that Katelyn’s heart has failed again. The only option left is for her to have a complete transplant.

Nana Joy Lamb said: “Katelyn has been in and out of hospital many times. She has taken it all in her stride, the operations come as second nature to her. It’s hit her hard this weekend. We are running out of time – we are going towards the end of the line.”

The family’s world was turned upside down following a routine check-up at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital in November. They regularly visit the hospital so staff can monitor Katelyn’s rare condition – hyperplastic left heart syndrome.

“We went for a six-month check-up and they said her heart was failing. It was a huge shock for us,” said Katelyn’s mother, Amy Lamb, of Uldale Road, Mirehouse. Katelyn was placed top of the national transplant emergency list and all the family can do is wait for a heart to become available.

“We’re just waiting for a phone call about a donor. That’s all we can do.”

The pacemaker that Katelyn had previously been fitted with was switched off and she is now taking medication to keep her heart working. A community care nurse visits Katelyn every week to check how much oxygen is flowing around her body.

Amy said: “Katelyn is still going to St Begh’s School. The staff have been wonderful. She has lived a full life, she’s gone to Brownies, Rainbows and swimming. She went to Karen Starkey’s dance class for three years and Karen was really supportive to her.

“We have never wrapped her up in cotton wool. She is struggling to do what she used to as she gets tired quite easily. But she always lets us know how she’s feeling and she does things at her own pace.”

The family says there are fears that if Katelyn has the life-saving operation, it could be a slow recovery process.

“Katelyn has never had a fully working heart and we don’t know if her body would cope,” says Amy.

This week Katelyn has been taken into West Cumberland Hospital with circulation problems, a symptom of the syndrome, and she remained in hospital yesterday (Wednesday).

Amy said: “She lost the feeling in her hands and feet because of bad circulation. She was taken in to hospital at about 6pm on Tuesday and she’ll be staying in for the next couple of days for observation.”

Speaking yesterday, Amy said her daughter had not regained sensation in her left foot and the hospital staff were continuing regular checks on her.

As this month is National Heart Month, the family want to highlight the need for people to sign up to become a heart donor.

Katelyn’s grandfather, Steven Lamb, said: “It’s a difficult subject for people to talk about. The fact is that there are many organs that are going unused. We are not waiting for someone to die. It’s a fact of life that there are people who pass away prematurely or suddenly and a low amount of organs are provided.”

Steven said two of his colleagues at Sellafield are planning a fundraising bike ride for the Children’s Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital. This will take place on July 7 from Whitehaven to Tynemouth returning the following day.

The family is also planning to give organ donors information and application forms out to raise awareness about the need for more organ donors.

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