As Pendle children prepare to return to school next week, a 13-year-old boy from the borough has been highlighted by the British Heart Foundation which says an estimated 490 children with congenital heart defects will start the new term.
Joshua Licastri, from Barnoldswick, is helping the BHF launch its new campaign “Bag It, Beat It” to raise vital funds for research so more children born with heart defects can make it to school.
During the campaign, the BHF is urging the public to donate bags full of their unwanted items to BHF shops to raise money for life-saving heart research.
Joshua’s mum, Clare, had a planned caesarean at 37 weeks as they didn’t think the baby could cope with the stress of labour after noticing he had a very slow heartbeat in pre-natal scans.
Josh was born at 9am on August 16th, 2001.
Clare got to kiss her son, but neither she nor her husband got to hold him as he was rushed off to the neonatal unit.
Josh was diagnosed with a congenital heart block, which meant the chambers of his heart were not beating in sync, shortly after birth.
His dad, Paul, said: “When Josh was born, Clare didn’t get to see him for seven hours, she said she felt empty because all she had was a photo of him.
“Because of the congenital heart block, Josh’s heart rate was about 60 – 70bpm. A specialist explained that in time he would need to have a pacemaker fitted.”
They also discovered the heart block was triggered by Clare having the autoimmune condition, lupus, so she was also sent for tests.
“We had prepared for the worst, but he was coping fine on his own. He was breathing OK, so we started to feel a lot more reassured. He had a 24 hour ECG and was allowed home when he was a few days old.
“Since birth Josh has had 24 hour ECG traces done twice a year, every year, and his heart rate was gradually slowing until last year. Josh started suffering dizzy spells and his heart rate would get to as low as 20bpm at night, so last October, at age 12, he was fitted with a pacemaker.
“The procedure went really well and Josh was in and out in a day. He is now at high school and isn’t held back in any way by his condition.
“He avoids particular sports but is a keen footballer. He will need to have his battery changed every five or six years, but should lead a completely normal life.”
The BHF urgently needs to fund more research into congenital heart disease.
Everyone can get involved in Bag it. Beat it. by simply filling a bag with good quality clothes, shoes, books, handbags, DVDs, CDs, bric-a-brac and children’s toys and taking it into their local BHF shop this September.