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Pair take the plunge for heart unit campaign
8:00am Friday 17th August 2012 in News
The mother and godfather of a Silsden boy are leaping to the rescue of the hospital that saved his life as a baby.
Kirsty Whitaker and Damon Reece will do a parachute jump in support of the campaign to save Leeds General Infirmary’s children's heart unit.
Their jump will also raise money for a fighting fund for court action against the planned closure of the surgery unit.
Kirsty and son Joseph, now six, will have to travel to Newcastle for future heart operations.
Joseph had an operation soon after he was born when doctors discovered he had a congenital heart defect.
One of Joseph’s arteries had narrowed and had to be cut out and the two ends joined together.
Joseph will need operations throughout his childhood.
Kirsty, of Craven Drive, said: “It wasn’t picked up until he was two weeks old and at that time he was very weak and ill. He was taken straight from Airedale to Leeds. He was in a really bad way. He’ll need further treatment all his life.”
Kirsty said that having to travel to Newcastle for operations would take Joseph, husband Shaun and herself away from the support of family and friends.
She said that when Joseph received his first treatment in Leeds she and Shaun were near enough to home to be able to return to freshen up.
She said: “Having the support keeps you going. People can come and visit. Leeds General Infirmary is amazing. We’ve been to different hospitals and you can see the difference. You don’t have to fix what’s not broken.”
The decision to close the Leeds unit was made following a nationwide review into children’s heart services.
In future Craven families will receive diagnosis, monitoring and non-surgical treatment at Leeds, but will have to travel to Liverpool or Newcastle for operations.
Yorkshire politicians have called for Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to intervene and parents are also campaigning to stop the Leeds closure.
Kirsty volunteered her support after a Facebook campaign group asked for people to do the parachute jump to raise both awareness and money.
Damon and wife Sara are Joseph’s godparents, so Damon agreed to join in even though he, like Kirsty, is frightened of flying.
Damon, of Kent Avenue, Silsden, said: “I’ve heard the plane is the worst bit. I guess once you’ve thrown yourself out there’s nothing you can do about it!”
Damon and Kirsty are jumping in aid of the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund and people can donate via the Virgin Giving website by typing “Kirsty Whitaker” into the sponsor a friend box.
Kirsty is also organising a “Fighting Fun Day” at St James’ Church tomorrow from 9am to noon. The event includes a coffee morning, face painting and dunking Damon and Shaun.