From heart surgery to catwalk - all before she's turned nine

 

A child model who had life-saving heart surgery as a baby is starring on the catwalk at New York and London fashion weeks.

Amy Lee, 8, from East Grinstead in West Sussex, was just four months old when she became seriously ill on Christmas Day.

After a short stay at her local hospital, she was rushed to Evelina London Children’s Hospital by the South Thames Retrieval Service, and spent over a week on a life support machine in the paediatric intensive care unit.

Doctors discovered that Amy had patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) – a hole between her aorta and pulmonary artery that causes too much blood to be delivered to the lungs. If left untreated, PDA can lead to permanent damage to the heart and lungs and could become life-threatening. 

Amy’s mum Jennie, a sales rep, said: “It was the worst time of my life. I was beside myself with worry and seeing her tiny body hooked up to the machines was dreadful. 

“The nurses on the unit were absolutely brilliant and the doctors helped to put me at ease by explaining what they could see on the scans and how they were going to treat her.”

At just seven months old, Amy underwent keyhole surgery to close the hole. A small thin tube called a catheter was inserted into a vein at the top of her leg and X-rays were used to guide the catheter to the right position in her heart. A mushroom shaped plug was then used to seal it closed.

Jennie said: “Evelina London was amazing, without them we might not have her. Everyone from the cleaning staff and the receptionist to the clinical team were just so friendly and lovely.”

Amy, who has previously starred in adverts for Sainsbury’s and Lidl, made her debut at New York Fashion Week on Saturday 9 February and will be walking at London Fashion Week on Sunday 17 February.

She’ll be strutting her stuff for children's tailor and fashion designer, Krissie Colton and her brand ME Clothing.

Amy said: “I’m very very very very excited because it’s my favourite thing to do. My friend went to watch me in New York and I have friends who do it with me in London.”

Jennie said: “When Amy’s modelling she’s in her element and has a beaming smile on her face, I am so proud of her. 

“To look at Amy you would never know the struggles she’s been through. She has autism and a cataract in her left eye but she hasn’t let anything stop her from doing what she loves.”

Dr Aaron Bell, consultant paediatric cardiologist at Evelina London, said: “Amy was pretty sick when she arrived at Evelina London and her heart was becoming enlarged, but the surgery was a success. It’s wonderful to see how well Amy is doing and I wish her luck in her modelling career. She is a great example of how our life-saving treatment is helping children to go on and live a healthy life.”

Evelina London is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. The hospital was founded in 1869 as Evelina Hospital for Sick Children by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild whose wife, Evelina, died in childbirth along with their baby.  

To find out how Evelina London will be celebrating its special birthday, visit www.evelinalondon.nhs.uk/150  and to help fundraise for the hospital please visit https://www.supportevelina.org.uk/get-involved/evelina-150 

(modelling photo credit: Ruthie Deane)

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