Welcoming home Annabelle

10 September 2020

Eight months after making the 400-mile trip from Lanarkshire, Scotland to Evelina London for life-saving specialist care to treat baby Annabelle’s congenital heart disease (CHD), parents Christine and Barry are finally taking Annabelle home.

A man and women holding a baby on a hospital bed
Annabelle, with dad Barry and mum Christine at Evelina London

Annabelle’s story:

Christine and her husband Barry had been on track for a regular pregnancy. But at their routine 20-week scan at their local hospital, doctors noticed Annabelle’s heart wasn’t quite right.

Annabelle has a type of congenital heart disease (CHD) called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). The condition is so rare that it affects only around one in every 5,000 children. But for babies born with HLHS, the left side of the heart doesn’t grow, which affects normal blood flow through the heart.

Christine and Barry were told Annabelle would need an operation soon after she was born, but due to how rare the condition is, they were transferred to Evelina London for specialist care.

Despite being due on January 19, the couple were told to make the journey to London two weeks early to give birth after a scan on January 3 found Annabelle had stopped growing in the womb.

After being born at St Thomas’ Hospital weighing exactly four pounds, Annabelle had her first operation at just four days old.

“It was a really scary time,” says Christine. “She was so tiny and seeing her being taken away for her surgery was heart breaking.”

Annabelle had to remain in hospital for five months. She has since had five more operations including two further open-heart surgeries to improve the blood flow in her heart.

Over the course of their time at the hospital, Christine increasingly felt like the hospital was a second home.

“The staff were all so amazing. They were brilliant with us and with Annabelle and we got to know them all really well,” she says.

Thanks to the support and expertise of the cardiology team, Annabelle has pulled through each of her surgeries.

“After the last open-heart surgery, we couldn’t believe how quickly she recovered. She seemed to bounce right back,” says Christine.

Annabelle will need at least one further surgery before she is five, but Christine and Barry were finally allowed to take their baby home to Scotland in August.

Baby sitting upright on a hospital bed, smiling
Annabelle at Evelina London

“I am Home”: Giving back with The Cardiology Kids

Filled with gratitude for the care and support Annabelle received over the past few months, Christine and Barry decided they wanted to give back to the hospital. They decided to join the #1in100 appeal, which raises awareness of CHD, which affects roughly one in 100 children.

“We really can’t thank the staff enough. Without the cardiology team, Annabelle wouldn’t be here,” says Christine.
“You wouldn’t know she’s been through so much in her short life so far. Annabelle is just such a happy, bubbly wee baby.”

For the #1in100 appeal, Christine and Barry joined 76 other families who have been treated and cared for at Evelina London for CHD to raise £10,000, a target the group have already beaten.

The money raised by the families will be split between the Children's Heart Fund, which is ring fenced for the cardiology department, and ECHO, a charity which supports children and young people with heart conditions and their families who’ve been treated by Evelina London.

The appeal was launched by The Cardiology Kids, a supporter-led fundraising community aiming to raise £150,000 for the cardiology department. As part of the appeal, The Cardiology Kids created two #1in100 music videos featuring photographs of 77 children, including Annabelle, who were born with a form of CHD and cared for by Evelina London.

The photos are accompanied by acapella group Stratford East Singers’ cover of Byron Gold’s ‘I Am Home,’ a song that is particularly sentimental for Christine and Barry.

“When we first heard ‘I Am Home’ it made us think about how Evelina London felt like our home and the staff began to feel like family. It has even more meaning for us now that Annabelle has finally been able to come home,” explains Christine.

“We’re all extremely grateful to Christine and Barry, and the rest of the families involved in the Cardiology Kids #1in100 appeal, for creating such powerful and inspiring videos,” says Dr Aaron Bell, one of Annabelle’s consultants.

“It’s a brilliant reminder of the resilience and strength of the children and the families we see at Evelina London. We can’t thank them enough for coming together like this and their continued support of each other and our team,” he added.

Have you and your family been treated for a cardiac condition at Evelina London? Join The Cardiology Kids and start fundraising today! Whatever fundraising activity you choose, it will make a big difference to Evelina London.

Fundraise with The Cardiology Kids

Find out how you can join The Cardiology Kids.