Happy Birthday to us! – ‘heart op baby’ Catherine Butler from Southampton shares her 25th birthday with Wessex Heartbeat, the charity which has helped her and thousands of other heart patients live healthy, normal lives.
Catherine was born at Southampton General Hospital in May 1992, weighing just five pounds, with two huge holes in her heart and her cardiac arteries ‘back to front’.
That same month Wessex Heartbeat was formed to support the hospital’s Wessex Cardiac unit and its many thousands of patients.
Wessex Heartbeat has gone on to raise £15.8 million to provide crucial improvements, cutting-edge equipment, clinical education and research for the unit.
The charity has also provided accommodation to thousands of heart patients’ relatives at Heartbeat House, just a stone’s throw from the hospital.
Catherine said: “I can’t imagine how frightened my parents (Glen and Mary) were when they were told I had two big holes in my heart and that my main cardiac arteries were twisted.
“Thankfully we had the cardiac unit and a top surgeon to perform my open heart surgery. We also had the support of a very new but very exciting charity called Wessex Heartbeat.”
Catherine underwent major open heart surgery aged just seven months and is now a healthy young mum and talented dance teacher.
She is also a dedicated Wessex Heartbeat supporter, and has raised hundreds of pounds to help other heart patients.
Heartbeat CEO, John Munro, explained: “In the last 25 years, Wessex Heartbeat has funded the building of the Young Adult Cardiac Centre, a £1 million refurbishment of the children’s ward, the building of a state-of-the-art education and conference centre and a paediatric intensive care ambulance and Babypod.
“In 2016 the charity also celebrated 21 years of offering free, home-from-home accommodation at Heartbeat House for patients’ relatives.”
He added: “Catherine and her parents received support from Wessex Heartbeat and in turn went on to become faithful supporters – Catherine even became quite a poster girl for the charity if you look back through the Echo’s archives! and we are thrilled she and her family have continued to help us.”
Apart from a minor catheter operation at the age of 11 and yearly check-ups, Catherine has gone on to live a full and healthy life and realise her dream of becoming a champion dancer and now a dance teacher.
On May 13, in her latest fundraising event for the charity, she held a two-hour Clubbercise class at Redbridge Community School, Millbrook, and raised £700.
In June 2015, Catherine also gave birth to a son, Jacob.
She said: “At 20 weeks doctors took a scan of his heart and I was overjoyed when I heard he had no recurrent heart defects.
“As Jacob grows I’ll tell him all about Wessex Heartbeat and I’m sure he will soon be involved in the fundraising too.”
To support Wessex Heartbeat with your own event, by taking a charity place in a marathon or cycle ride, or even by sponsoring a room at Heartbeat House, please visit: www.heartbeat.co.uk or call: 023 8070 6095.