AN AUTHOR is on track to boost the ward which cared for his grandson after he was given open-heart surgery.
Hetton toddler Caden James Morrell was two weeks old when he began gasping for air, and his parents Ian Morrell and Kim Fisher rushed him to hospital.
Tests revealed he had been born with a congenital condition called ventricular septal defect.
He was in theatre for eight hours at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital treated him.
The 18-month-old has made a full recovery, but the family’s experience sparked a host of fund-raising efforts to support the unit, which is facing an uncertain future.
It was saved as part of a review into children’s heart units, which decided one at Leeds should shut, but that is now under High Court scrutiny after concerns that the process was flawed.
In the meantime, the latest fund-raiser for the ward is being led by Caden’s grandfather, Ian, who is using his Puffing Billy project to give it a boost.
The 53-year-old, who runs North Eastern Mobility in South Hetton, has already launched his first book based on the train, with the help of illustrator and friend Swin Tempest.
It tells the tale of the train, a boy called William and his grandfather. It was inspired by Ian’s memories as a youngster, when he first saw the train on holiday at a Butlin’s holiday camp.
Ian is donating 50p to the ward from each book sold, to buy items which will make the stay on the ward a better experience and other items not paid for by the NHS.
In addition to the book, he has rebuilt one of the engines, which is used to offer rides to visitors to his showroom on the village’s industrial estate.
Ian said: “It was a very worrying time, so I now want to offer continuous support to an invaluable local facility that we should never ever take for granted, particularly in this difficult financial climate.
“I am very excited by this new venture.
“It will be local people supporting a local charity that is close to all our hearts. The book sales are going steady, and the artwork for the new ones is done, the storyline is done, now it just needs to be checked for grammar and so on and they’ll be ready.”
The first book, Puffing Billy and the Sharks, will be followed by Puffing Billy and the Aliens and Puffing Billy and the Gold.
Ian added: “It’s so great to be bringing the magic of Puffing Billy to the current generation. The little train changed my life, and I know it can change millions more.”
The book and the new publications, are available through puffingbillybooks.com and from Ian at his business.