A brave girl with Down’s Syndrome who cheated death has inspired a family friend to run the London Marathon for her special charity.
Ella Turner, four, who lives near Heath Road, Leighton Buzzard, was born with two holes in her heart, meaning she needed surgery at just four-and-a-half months old in order to breathe and pump blood properly.
Her mum, Anne-Marie Turner, 35, found out whilst she was still pregnant that Ella would need surgery, her tiny daughter ending up in hospital several times before the operation because she had choked on her bottle formula due to difficulties breathing.
The family’s lifeline was the charity Down’s Heart Group, a support who explained the link between Down’s Syndrome and heart conditions, and whom family friend Suzie Trew Foster, 40, will be running for in tribute.
Anne-Marie said: “Ella was blue lighted at two-and-a-half months old which was the worst experience ever.
“She needed bottle milk, which meant that sometimes she would choke, struggling to breathe. On this particular day, Ella choked, but for some reason this time her breath didn’t come back.
“Her eyes started bulging, her lips went blue and her skin went mottled. It was horrible.”
Ella was rushed to Luton and Dunstable Hospital, staying for a few days to recover.
Around 50% of children with Down’s Syndrome are born with heart conditions, so Anne-Marie had an internal scan whilst pregnant, doctors believing unborn Ella had holes within her central wall.
She said: “After birth, Ella was actively in heart failure at two months. You immediately think of whirling machines, but it means her heart wasn’t working as it should be.”
Luckily, thanks to an internet search, Anne-Marie had found Down’s Heart Group, admitting: “If I hadn’t had the charity, I am not sure I would have been able to get through.
“Penny Green, who runs it, is amazing and would visit after Ella was born. She explained things in layman’s terms and supported me emotionally, even offering to come to appointments with us.”
At Great Ormond Street Hospital, surgeons closed up the holes using gauzes, one for the big hole at the bottom of Ella’s heart, and one for the small hole at the top. Surgery, successful, Ella is no longer in heart failure, flourishing at Heathwood Lower School.
Anne-Marie said: “Ella has two birthdays! One on April 2 for her birth, and one on August 16 to celebrate her operation, the day she started living properly. Her big sister decorates a heart cake and last summer we visited Florida.
“Ella was a ghost of a child. Her every breath used to be a marathon – and now Suzie is running a marathon for us. I am so blessed that she’s chosen Down’s Heart Group!”
Suzie, of Heath Green, Heath and Reach, said: “Ella is a beautiful little girl and Anne-Marie recommended the charity. On marathon day, I am hoping that Anne-Marie and Ella, as well as my partner Mark and our twins Emily and Jack (eight), will come and watch. I’m also getting Ella’s face printed on my t-shirt!”
To donate, visit: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SuzieTrewFoster