WIDE-EYED and giggling – beaming Lacey Toni Brown is every inch the happy little girl.
But behind her smile is a struggle with a rare condition that will almost certainly lead to her needing a transplant.
At just two years old, Lacey Toni has already undergone two open-heart operations, is fed by a tube and is frequently in hospital.
Her condition also makes her heart beat quickly at the same rate as if she was jogging. Her dad Andrew Brown, 37, said his world fell apart when he learnt after 20 weeks of his partner’s pregnancy that their baby would be born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome – a condition that causes the heart to be underdeveloped.
Andrew, of Tyne Terrace, in Easington Colliery, said: “It was absolutely devastating to hear it from the doctors. It kills me to think that I can’t help my little girl, she is my pride and joy. I was gutted and it felt that everything was going wrong in life, but the main thing is that I can still look into my daughter’s eyes two years on. She is a little character and very strong but we know what the condition means and we know what she will have to go through.”
Andrew and his partner, Dawn Corner, 35, had been in high spirits as they looked forward to finding out the sex of their first child at 20 weeks. But their emotions turned to concern when they were told Dawn would have to undergo a Caesarian section as their child would be born weak due to a heart problem.
Lacey Toni was born at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, where she still goes weekly for check-ups. Her condition causes the foetal heart to not develop normally, so the left ventricle is under-sized and too weak to pump blood to the body. Without surgical intervention heart failure is said to be inevitable.
Lacey Toni went under the knife at only eight days old and then again at eight months in the Freeman Hospital, in Newcastle, when doctors repaired a hole in her heart.
She now takes a range of medication, is fed through a tube, has to overcome a range of problems and makes regular trips to Newcastle to see specialists.
Andrew, who works for the parish council, added: “We know what to expect in later life, with the further operations and treatments, but for the time being we are happy she is here. The condition itself is horrendous but she is making good steps.”
A year after Lacey Toni was born the family were blessed with another addition when Layla Cara was born healthy.
Members of Easington Parish Council are now joining forces with the police to raise money for the Children’s Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital, in Newcastle. Andrew Brown is asking members of both services to pay a £5 donation to play in the match that will take place at Easington Welfare Park on Wednesday, October 31, at 6pm.
He hopes to raise more than £500.