Joe was born with multiple heart defects including; transposition of the great arteries, multiple pulmonary stenosis, left ventricular outflow tract obstruction and right ventricular outflow tract obstruction. Joe has been in and out of hospital throughout his life. He says:
When I was three, I had my first bovine pericardial patch fitted to make my pulmonary artery wider and I then had further surgery to fit patches when I was eight years old. Over the years I’ve had many catheter procedures where I’ve had numerous balloons and stents fitted. I had a pacemaker fitted two years ago after I passed out a number of times – it was so frightening to wake up on the floor and did not know what had happened.
After a 12 week stint in hospital, Joe collapsed at school. But luckily one of his friends remembered about the heart monitor, that can be activated manually, he’d had fitted.
Without my friend’s quick thinking, it would have been much longer before we knew why I was passing out. Since I had the pacemaker fitted, I have never been so fit and well. I am able to play football, do PE and run for the first time in 16 years. Depending on how much more I grow and if the narrowing gets any worse, I may not need any more surgery. Fingers crossed!
Joe describes his earliest memory of his heart condition:
I remember going for a check-up and Dr Parsons explaining what was wrong with me. I went onto the internet and researched everything he’d told me. After realising what was wrong with me was a lot more complicated than I had thought, I started to try to be a lot happier person. I realised from having a heart condition that you can’t take life for granted and that you have to live every day as if it is your last.
Sometimes I just hate life, but I think of all the other people around the world who are a lot worse of than me and I realise I shouldn’t be thinking this because I have a lot of people who care about me and a hell of a lot to be happy for. My mum Sharon and my sister Leah have been there every step of the way. I have been on TV and radio and in newspapers to raise awareness of the Save Our Surgery campaign. I do not see myself as a role model – I am just myself.
However, I am honoured to think that, to many parents, I am a role model for their children, and it was a huge privilege to be asked to speak on behalf of all the patients at the SOS demo. Also, I’ve been able to talk to some of the children on the ward and let them know what to expect, and to reassure them.
Because of all the care he’s had, Joe is aspiring to be a paediatric nurse when he’s older, and is already a St John’s Ambulance cadet.
I would like to say a huge thank you to all the staff on the heart ward for saving my life a number of times – I really wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for them. I owe them loads for what they have done.