A SCHOOLGIRL who was born with serious heart defects had “the best day of her life” when she was chosen to present flowers to the Duchess of Cambridge.
Olivia Lake, 7, from Brookwood, received a thank-you letter from Kensington Palace after the event at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA).
It was the first visit to the LTA by duchess Kate after she took over as patron from the Queen.
Olivia’s father Dean, said that Olivia had Tetralogy of Fallot – four different defects – that were discovered shortly after she was born.
“They found she had very low oxygen in her blood and at first it wasn’t clear what it was. At one stage we were told it was a problem with her lungs.”
Dean said that he and his wife Marion went from the joy of having a new baby to the realisation that she had serious medical problems.
There was a seven-month wait until Olivia was big enough to have the open-heart operation she needed.
“During that time she had ‘blue fits’ and it was an agonising wait,” added Dean.
He said Olivia’s heart was the size of a walnut but the eight-hour operation was a great success.
She will need more surgery when she is a teenager to replace the pulmonary valve, half of which is artificial and will not grow with her.
Olivia, who goes to Knaphill Junior School with sister Bethany, 10, is a member of Brookwood Brownies and is very active despite her conditions. Mum Marion is a Rainbows leader.
Elder sister Emily, 15, is just about to leave The Winston Churchill School for college, and the youngest Lake girl, Tabitha, 3, will join her sisters at Knaphill Junior next year.
“It’s frightening for us and we have to hold her back on some things, but we want her to lead as normal a life as possible,” said Dean.
A year after Olivia’s operation, he became involved with raising money for the Children’s Heart Foundation (CHF), of which he now a trustee. His Longboards for Little Hearts charity has raised about £10,000 in five years.
The link between the CHF and LTA came about because Martin Corrie, the new association president, chose the charity as his one for his presidency. Martin’s son also suffered heart problems as a small child.
Olivia was chosen to be a Young Ambassador for the Children’s Heart Federation by Martin, to meet Duchess, after he watched her taking part in the Tennis for Kids session.
Dean, who followed his father Paul as a tug driver on aircraft movements at Heathrow, said that Olivia was in awe of the duchess and the whole day.
“She’s been pretty popular at school. At first, the other pupils didn’t believe she was to meet the duchess, but then saw her on the television news and other media. She has become a little celebrity.”