The grandmother of Larne heart surgery baby ‘wee Joe’ Degnan is scaling new heights for charity Chest, Heart and Stroke by climbing Ben Nevis.
Jacqui Seymour announced her fundraising expedition shortly after her grandson celebrated his first birthday on August 14, less than two months after returning home from lifesaving heart surgery in England.
Joe, from Larne’s Ballyvallagh Road, was referred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital at the end of May for a procedure to correct a congenital heart condition known as double inlet left ventricle. The condition meant that only one of the pumping chambers, or ventricles, in his heart was working. Babies affected by the condition suffer from a lack of oxygen supply to their blood and major organs. Joe, who is a ‘poster baby’ for the Chest, Heart and Stroke Baby Hearts Appeal, was allowed to return home on Monday, June 23 after being given the all- clear.
His grandmother Jacqui, who works at Larne Skills Development at LEDCOM, will be undertaking the Ben Nevis trek with colleagues Deborah O’Boyle, Cathy Maguire, Malachy Delargy and retired teacher Morna Wright. She revealed: “Part of me is looking forward to it, part of me is feeling trepidation. I will be 58 years old in two weeks’ time, and the walk is on October 10. I’ve never done anything like this before!”
The fundraisers are training to cope with the physical demands of the challenge. Jacqui continued: “There are steep hills involved and we have been doing hill walks. Altitude sickness won’t apply as Ben Nevis is 4,000 feet high-four times the height of Shane’s Hill-and you have to go above 10,000 feet to get altitude sickness. It will be an eight to nine-hour walk of around nine miles.” The group hope to raise at least £3,000, the minimum amount needed to undertake the challenge.
As for Joe, Jacqui says that her grandson is thriving despite his recent major heart surgery. She revealed: “Joe is absolutely brilliant, we had his first birthday on Thursday August 14 with his little cousins and his other little mates. Joe’s doing really well and he’s almost walking now. He doesn’t need another operation until he is four, so now we can just enjoy him as a baby. He still needs cardiac check-ups at the Royal and we need to keep an eye on his weight. He’s smaller and thinner than other babies his age as his heart is pumping faster-he doesn’t put on weight as he only has one working chamber that pumps blood and works harder. But he goes on his wee walker like a normal baby.”
His grandmother says that the success of Joe’s operation has come as a huge relief to the whole family. She commented: “Kerri and Willie can enjoy him now. They can be a normal, happy family.”
To sponsor the trek, visit: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/weejoesteam. A quiz night for Chest, Heart and Stroke will be held in the Olderfleet Bar on August 22 at 8pm.