DREAM­ING BIG

Wangaratta Chronicle - - Front Page - BY SIMONE KER­WIN sker­win@ ne­me­dia.com.au

SIX year old Eli Hack of Wan­garatta, who has un­der­gone three heart surg­eries, has been in­spired by ad­ven­turer and heart surgery pa­tient Jeremy Scott. Jeremy will visit the North East this week­end for an event or­gan­ised by Wan­garatta and Be­nalla Heartkids. Eli hopes oth­ers will come along and hear more about Jeremy’s story, and also be in­spired by his drive to over­come ob­sta­cles.

An ad­ven­tur­ous heart surgery pa­tient who has in­spired a young Wan­garatta boy to fol­low his dreams will visit the re­gion this week­end.

Jeremy Scott be­came some­thing of a role model for six year old Eli Hack af­ter vis­it­ing the ru­ral city for a speak­ing en­gage­ment ear­lier this year, where he dis­cussed his book, ‘The Long Road from a Bro­ken Heart’.

The book de­tails his two and a half year, 51,916km solo bike ride around the world, af­ter which he ded­i­cated his life to in­spir­ing oth­ers.

He did just that for Wan­garatta mother Lisa Deke­l­ing, who at­tended Jeremy’s talk to glean some pearls of wis­dom for her young son, Eli, who has un­der­gone three heart surg­eries in his six years.

“Jeremy was the most amaz­ing, in­spi­ra­tional speaker, and had this bril­liant cof­fee ta­ble book, which I bought, and he wrote a mes­sage in it – ‘To Eli, heart surgery can be a step­ping stone to a beau­ti­ful life; dream and be­lieve’,” Lisa said.

“It was won­der­ful to hear that even though he has a heart con­di­tion, he can go on these grand ad­ven­tures.”

As re­gional co­or­di­na­tor of Wan­garatta and Be­nalla re­gion Heartkids, Lisa de­cided to bring Jeremy back to the North East to share his story and in­spire not only heart pa­tients and their fam­i­lies, but the wider com­mu­nity.

The event will be held at the Al­bury City Li­brary on Satur­day from 3pm, with Heartkids fam­i­lies free and en­try by do­na­tion for other peo­ple in­ter­ested in at­tend­ing.

“Our main goal is to in­spire other Heartkids fam­i­lies, but it would also ap­peal to peo­ple who just love ad­ven­ture and bike rid­ing; it’s ap­pli­ca­ble to so many peo­ple,” Lisa said.

Jeremy, who was born with a hole in his aorta valve and un­der­went open heart surgery at the age of four, has raised more than $50,000 for the Aus­tralian, New Zealand and British Heart Foun­da­tions.

His story is en­cour­ag­ing for Lisa, as the mum of a Heartkid, and for Eli, whose heart de­fect was de­tected dur­ing preg­nancy.

“Af­ter hav­ing four com­pletely healthy ba­bies (Eli is the fifth of Lisa’s six chil­dren), I as­sumed it would al­ways be that way, so it was a shock to find out there was some­thing wrong,” Lisa said.

“Eli had to be born at the Monash Med­i­cal Cen­tre, and sur­prised ev­ery­one when he came out pink and scream­ing.”

While a healthy heart has four cham­bers and two ar­ter­ies, Eli’s heart had three cham­bers and one artery.

“His heart de­fects were work­ing to­gether as a new­born, so it was de­cided that it was best for him to go home and get older and stronger be­fore heart surgery,” Lisa said.

Eli un­der­went his first surgery at three months of age, fo­cused on es­tab­lish­ing a good sup­ply of blood to his heart.

“It was very scary; they talk to you about the risk of death and brain dam­age, and I dis­tinctly re­mem­ber want­ing to grab my baby and run away, be­cause he looked fine, but in- side he wasn’t,” Lisa said.

“They went in through his ch­est, and we waited all day, then the sur­geon told us it was not suc­cess­ful, and asked for per­mis­sion to go in through his back, which was suc­cess­ful.

“Eli had an­other surgery at seven months, as his oxy­gen lev­els had dropped to 70 per cent.

“He was be­com­ing more ac­tive and needed more oxy­gen, but his heart couldn’t keep up, so he had some ‘re­plumb­ing’ done.

“The surgery when he was three years old was the scari­est one.

“We were in the front yard at home and he be­came very dis­tressed and I couldn’t fig­ure out why, and when I picked him up, his body went limp and his eyes rolled back; I thought it was the end.”

Eli was taken to the Royal Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal (RCH) by air am­bu­lance, and had a bovine valve re­place­ment; he also has gor­tex in the cen­tre of his heart to cre­ate the four cham­bers.

Doc­tors reg­u­larly mon­i­tor his con­di­tion as he grows, and Eli is due back at the RCH in June for a check-up.

“It is a chal­lenge for a six year old, be­cause if your friends are all run­ning around, you want to as well,” Lisa said.

Now in grade one at St Pa­trick’s Pri­mary School, Eli is re­minded by teach­ers to take it easy if he be­comes breath­less.

“He’s ac­cept­ing of his hos­pi­tal ap­point­ments, even though it’s quite in­ten­sive when he has a check-up,” Lisa said.

She said Heartkids was an in­valu­able con­nec­tion, with the lo­cal group hold­ing catch-ups ev­ery three months, and en­cour­ag­ing young peo­ple to achieve their best re­gard­less of ob­sta­cles.

“We’ve come so far in med­i­cal care that most of the chil­dren with heart con­di­tions are fac­ing a whole new fron­tier,” she said.

Lisa en­cour­aged any­one keen to be in­spired by the re­silience of these young peo­ple, and the story of Jeremy Scott, to be at the Al­bury City Li­brary in Kiewa Street on Satur­day af­ter­noon from 3pm to 5pm.

Fur­ther in­for­ma­tion about the event can be found at https://www. eventbrite.com/e/heartkids-pre­sents­the-long-road-from-a-bro­ken-hearttick­ets-44746070702.

PHOTO: Emma Hillier

PHOTO: Emma Hillier

SPEAK­ING FROM THE HEART: Six year old Eli Hack, and mum Lisa Deke­l­ing, hope lo­cals take the chance to at­tend a pre­sen­ta­tion at the Al­bury City Li­brary on Satur­day by Jeremy Scott, au­thor of ‘The Long Road from a Bro­ken Heart’.

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