Family and friends of a teenager waiting for a heart transplant have raised thousands to fund specialist medical equipment for a Wrexham hospital.
The fund-raising campaign was launched after Amy Willis was struck down by a sudden virus infection, leaving her seriously ill in hospital.
The 14-year-old, who lives in Penymynydd in Flintshire, previously had no health problems but now relies on a mechanical heart to keep her alive while she waits for a donor heart to become available.
She underwent open heart surgery to have the Heart Ware device implanted into her chest – becoming only the fourth teenager in the UK to undergo such a procedure.
She needs to have somebody with her constantly, 24 hours a day, to monitor the HeartWare device.
The money raised has enabled staff at Wrexham Maelor Hospital’s children unit, where Amy received treatment, to purchase a new hand-held monitor.
It can provide an instant reading of a child’s breathing and heart rate – and even works on new born sick and premature babies.
Amy, a pupil at St David’s High School in Saltney, became ill in November 2014, suffering from a cough, cold and sickness.
Her mum Andrea, a finance officer, said: “After three weeks Amy still wasn’t picking up and couldn’t eat. She was getting weaker and weaker and gastroenteritis was diagnosed before a doctor at Wrexham Maelor suspected something more serious was happening. She was transferred to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and she went into heart failure.”
Amy received medication to stabilise her condition but after returning home, she again began to deteriorate and was rushed back to Alder Hey. She was airlifted to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London where she was assessed for a heart transplant and is now on the waiting list.
While there Amy underwent surgery to have the mechanical heart fitted, and her mum Andrea and 12-year-old brother Jack along with the rest of her family are now waiting anxiously for the call that a donor organ has been found.
“Amy has a device that pumps her heart to keep it working properly,” said Andrea.
“She is able to continue going to school as along as she has someone with her who knows how her HeartWare device works. She needs someone with her 24 hours a day.”
While staying at Great Ormond Street Hospital Amy was invited to the premiere of ITV Christmas drama Peter and Wendy, which was filmed at the hospital. During the premiere, at the British Film Institute, she met Hunger Games star Stanley Tucci.
When the local community heard about the family’s plight they organised a series of money-spinning events including a black tie dinner and a sponsored walk by Saltney Scouts.
In total they have raised £10,000, which will be spoilt between Wrexham maelor, Aldery Children’s Hospital in Merseyside and Great Ormond Street Hospital, London.
“The support we have received has been overwhelming and it is brilliant to be able to buy this equipment for the children’s unit that did so much to help us,” added Andrea.
She is now keen to raise awareness of serious viruses like the one Amy suffered from. “We don’t know what strain of virus it was but it has turned our lives upside down. I would urge parents to be aware of such viruses and the effects they can have.”
Rebecca Morris, Senior Sister on the children’s ward at Wrexham Maelor Hospital said: “We are extremely grateful to the Willis family and their friends for raising the funds to help us to purchase this device.
“It is a great piece of kit as it enables us to do a spot check or continual monitoring on a child’s breathing and heart rate. Because it is portable it can be used in hospital and at home and is also of benefit to babies in a special care baby unit.”