Little Acorns’ massive hearts

A BRAVE three-year-old who underwent serious open heart surgery at just 10 months picked the lucky winners of a ‘red’ raffle at his St Johns nursery as part of British Heart Foundation month.

William Baylis, from Brookwood, was born with a serious heart defect and it was touch and go whether he would make it.

STAR DUO - Helen and William

STAR DUO – Helen and William

Mum Helen told the News & Mail: “Thanks to the British Heart Foundation’s exceptional work, he has made excellent progress and we celebrated his third birthday in December.”

Which is why Little Acorns have been ramping it up red this month to raise funds for and awareness of the life-saving cause.

The red raffle was just one of a number of events the staff, children and parents have been organising, and on Monday the pupils decorated heart-shaped biscuits with red icing and marshmallows. Helen, who is now a childminder, said: “William has what he calls his ‘shark scar’, from his neck to just below his ribs.

“It is a constant battle trying to prevent him getting out of puff as he easily gets tired if he exerts himself, but he’s learning.

“His valve leaks a little and he is still vulnerable to infection and cold. However, his six-monthly check-ups have now become yearly and his morning sessions at the nursery have increased from two to three.”

But it was a traumatic start to William’s little life. Born at the Royal Surrey, he was rushed to London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital. Helen said: “We thought he was just shivering but the doctor realised it was serious and didn’t bring him back. I was in a complete state of shock, what with having just given birth and then this, but there was no way I wasn’t going with him.

“I discharged myself and went in the ambulance, while my husband Paul looked after our daughter Emily, then five.

“William was blue and was kept in the high dependency unit in an incubator. We had to move him constantly as his breathing kept stopping.”

He was diagnosed with a condition called pulmonary stenosis, VSD and double outlet right ventricle. At just two days old he had a three-hour operation to have a shunt inserted to widen the main artery. When William was stronger, at 10 months old, he underwent six hours of full open heart surgery.

It’s difficult to imagine the trauma his parents had to go through. Helen, who gave up her job as an IT service manager, and dad Paul, an electrical engineer for Nestlé in Hayes, were on tenterhooks the entire time.

Helen explained: “It was a year of worry. I found the Heartline Families website a great help. We had to keep William away from infection or cold and I tested his blood saturation levels daily. He was so vulnerable. But if it wasn’t for the BHF none of this today would have been possible.”

William will need another operation in his adolescence, but it is hoped the surgery will be performed via keyhole surgery.

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