Monday, June 13, 2011

UK heart-swap girl Ellen Walsh dies

Ellen Walsh after her heart transplant in 2008 and a recent photograph

MIRACLE heart-swap toddler Ellen Walsh has sadly lost her fight for life.

The three-year-old made medical history when she and Patrick Skinner – who lived just streets away – became the first two children in Britain to have heart transplants in the same hospital on the same day.

Ellen recovered well following her transplant and took full advantage of her second chance of life as she enjoyed playing on her scooter and going on family trips.

But on Wednesday afternoon, Ellen tragically died after she suddenly collapsed at her home in West Monkseaton, Whitley Bay.

Today dad Ian, 36, paid a touching tribute to his "gorgeous" daughter who he said will leave a huge gap in all their lives.

The accountant said: "We are absolutely devastated at what has happened and feel like we’ve been robbed of our precious daughter.

"She had a second chance of life when she got her heart transplant and she was like a new person.

"Ellen loved to be out in the back garden and on her third birthday she got a new scooter and loved playing outside on it and being around her brothers.

"She had a lovely character and was always smiling – she was pleased to see anybody come through the door.

"Ellen really embraced life and made the most of her short time, but we are all devastated that we did not get longer with her."

Parents Stefanie, 32, and Ian, knew Ellen would have heart problems before she was born when scans showed her coronary arteries were wired the wrong way round and she had two holes in her heart.

At just seven days old, the youngster had major surgery and several more open-heart procedures followed.

But her health quickly deteriorated and she was swiftly put on the heart transplant register until a suitable donor was found in March 2009, when she was just 10-months old.

The life-saving procedure worked and despite suffering infections post operation Ellen, who went to Busy Bees nursery, was doing well and was delighted to be back home with her older brothers, Daniel, 13, and Oliver, 10.

A post mortem into Ellen’s death was expected yesterday, (Fri) but the findings have not yet been made public.

Ellen’s plight was an inspiration to many in the region when she and Patrick were both given new hearts within hours of each other at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital – something never before seen in Britain.

The story was made even more remarkable by the fact both youngsters’ parents lived just streets apart but had never previously met.

Ian added: "I would like to say a massive thank you to the Freeman for all that they have done, and I’d like to thank the donor family for giving us an extra two years with Ellen – time that we will never forget."

Ellen’s parents said any donations to the Children’s Heart Unit Fund at the Freeman would be appreciated.

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