A nine-year-old Draperstown boy is to star in a new billboard campaign for the Children’s Heartbeat Trust this week.
Shay Bradley has already had three open heart surgeries during his short life, after being born with congenital heart disease (CHD).
But he has his heart set on becoming a fireman, and, as he says on the billboards: “Three open heart surgeries won’t hold me back!”
And the Children’s Heartbeat Trust is determined to help him succeed.
This Children’s Heartbeat Trust’s Heart Week (May 16-22), Shay is hoping to raise awareness of CHD across Northern Ireland.
It is the region’s most common birth defect, but 127 local families have had to take their little ones across the water for the surgery they needed.
Speaking at the launch of Heart Week, Sarah Quinlan, Chief Executive, Children’s Heartbeat Trust, said: “Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect in Northern Ireland and affects over 200 families each year.
“From birth these children have to receive specialist care, which puts extra stress on these families.
“The Children’s Heartbeat Trust’s role is to provide support throughout this time to kids just like Shay and his family.
“This year our awareness campaign aims to highlight the bright future that children with CHD have,” she added. “Everyone has a dream about what they want to be when they grow up, and heart kids are no different.
“Open heart surgery won’t hold Shay back, and the Children’s Heartbeat Trust has it’s heart set on helping heart kids in Northern Ireland grow up to fulfil their dreams.”
“In the last year we have supported 127 families who have had to travel to England for their child’s surgery, we’ve held family fun days and support group meetings across Northern Ireland, trained 39 parents in paediatric first aid and funded more than 80 private and confidential counselling sessions.
“We are also working towards securing a dedicated children’s heart centre in Belfast which would deliver the highest standard of care to all heart children in Northern Ireland before and after their surgery.”
Children with congenital heart disease often require extra care and attention, particularly after surgery, and the Children’s Heartbeat Trust helps support these children and their families during what can often be a very difficult time.
As well as funding equipment for Clark Clinic at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, support groups, information sessions, confidential counselling and their two holiday caravans are available to affected families.
You can support them by texting HEARTS to 70660 to donate £5. More details at childrensheartbeattrust.org