ALLYSHA Hawes is a bright and bubbly teenager who would love to pursue a career as a singer.
But things could have turned out very differently if parents Kay and Mark had not acted on their fears about her health when she was just weeks old.
For Allysha, 15, of Newport, has a congenital heart condition that was not picked up until several days after she was born, and only when a visit to her family doctor ended with her requiring mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and a lifesaving trip to hospital.
Now her family is using National Heart Month to back a campaign by the Children’s Heart Federation (CHF) - a charity and umbrella organisation for 23 member groups which support children with heart problems and their families - to have a test which detects congenital heart defects in newborns introduced in all hospitals.
When Allysha was born Mr and Mrs Hawes raised concerns that she was having breathing difficulties.
“They allayed our fears by checking her and saying that she was OK. This happened on numerous occasions,” said Mr Hawes.
But just days later, when they took Allysha to their GP with similar concerns, things took a turn for the worse.
“The GP checked her heart and breathing and asked us how long she had been like this. Then he snatched Allysha out of Kay’s arms and starting doing mouth to mouth, whilst another doctor did a heart massage,” said Mr Hawes.
“We were quickly rushed to the special care baby unit in the Royal Gwent Hospital where Allysha was stabilised.
“We were gobsmacked. We didn’t have a clue what was happening.”
At just 13 days old, Allysha underwent a heart operation and now she leads a fairly active and normal life.
The CHF is warning however, that not all heart conditions like Allysha’s are caught in time, and it is calling for post-natal heart screening, known as pulse oximetry testing and which can pick up many heart defects, to be given all babies within 24 hours of their birth. It has started a petition at www.chfed.org.uk/pulseox
“Every year, 5,000 babies are born with congenital heart disease, however only a third of these conditions are detected during a mother’s pregnancy scan,” said CHF chief executive Anne Keatley-Clarke.
“Delays in diagnosis cause distress, physical harm and can even be life-risking for these babies.”
Mr and Mrs Hawes are backing the call. “It is important that all children get tested, allowing all children to have a better start in life,” said Mr Hawes.
The CHF estimates that one-in-five hospitals provide pulse oximetry testing for newborns. Testing is available in Gwent maternity units, but is not applied to all newborns.