Brave 12-year-old given the gift of life for Christmas after undergoing heart transplant
A Seaham youngster has been given the gift of life after receiving a new heart this Christmas.
Twelve-year-old Kayleigh Llewellyn is currently recovering in the high dependency unit at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, after undergoing the surgery which has saved her life.
The brave youngster, from Earl Street in Seaham, had become unwell suddenly after waking up for school complaining that she was struggling to breathe on.
Concerned parents Shaun Sidney and Sonia Llewellyn kept their daughter off school that day believing it was her asthma, but when Kayleigh woke up the following day she began to complain that her chest was sore.
After ringing 111, Kayleigh was taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital that same day where her heart rate was found to be too high.
The Seaham High School pupil was sent to the Freeman Hospital’s Children’s Heart Unit and further tests were carried out and Kayleigh was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy – a type of heart disease.
Doctors then told the family that Kayleigh needed to have a heart transplant.
The news came as a shock the the family who say that Kayleigh was a fit and active youngster playing football and doing gymnastics right up until she became unwell.
But medics told the family that the lack of a warning sign is not uncommon.
Kayleigh was taken to the High Dependency Unit and underwent surgery for a VAD Pump to be fitted on the left side of her heart, while the right side of her heart was linked to an ECMO machine.
After four weeks under intensive care, Kayleigh’s condition wasn’t improving and she was placed onto the urgent transplant list for a new heart in November.
Dad Shaun, 50, said: “She was on the transplant list for a week when a heart became available.
“She was prepared for theatre but because of the weather conditions they weren’t able to get the heart to her in time and it had started to deteriorate.
“We asked doctors to leave her in a coma until it was decided what the next stage was.”
Kayleigh was kept in a coma for a week during which time doctors were able to operate on the brave youngster to install a heart pump known as a Berlin Heart.
But just days later Kayleigh was rushed back to theatre after a heart became available.
Dad Shaun continued: “Kayleigh was then rushed to theatre for a heart transplant.
“The next morning we were told the operation had been a success and that the heart was a perfect match in blood and tissue type.
“Since receiving the heart she had been going from strength to strength.
“The whole ordeal has been our worst nightmare but now Kayleigh has been given the gift of life.
“It’s the best Christmas present we could ever ask for.”
Kayleigh’s dad has even had a tattoo of a heart on his chest with the date of his daughter’s life-saving surgery in tribute to the incredible gift she has received.
The brave youngster is now set to take medication for the rest of her life to ensure her body doesn’t reject her heart.
Shaun said: “The only way Kayleigh will find out who gave her the gift of the heart is if she asks to contact the family or parents of the donor.
“She will be able to lead a normal life and will still be able to do the sports she loves – she even has ambitions to take part in the World Transplant Games.
“Doctors can’t believe how quickly she has come round.
“And despite all she has been through she has smiled throughout it all – she is amazing.”
And now the the family plans to take Kayleigh to New York for Christmas 2020 thanks to a Just Giving Page set up in her name which has raised more than £3,000.
Shaun and Sonia have now both signed up to the Organ Donation register and are urging others to do the same.
Thanking medical staff, Shaun said: “A big thank you to all the medical staff for everything they have done – without them Kayleigh wouldn’t be here.”