Leo the Lion Heart inspires fundraiser

JIM FAGAN
Death was little more than a heartbeat away when 17-month old Leo Ellis was born.

Aware that Leo had a congenital heart defect and needed instant cardiac care, a standby specialist team at Brisbane’s Mater Hospital operated on him immediately so he could breathe. For tough little Leo it was the start of five major operations, including open heart surgery, that dogged the first four-and-a-half months of his young life. Today the Marcus Beach toddler loves life, just like any other youngster, and his mum and dad, Lisa and Campbell, want to thank the charity that helped them through the ordeal, HeartKids Queensland. Lisa is a pharmacist at Live Life Pharmacy at Noosa Fair. With the support of friends and work mates, notably Marilyn Anderson and Sarah Neilson, she is planning a Charity Walk at Lions Park, Noosa Heads on Saturday, September 15. Said Lisa: “We’ve called him Leo because, once we found out about his condition, we thought Leo was the right sort of name, strong and courageous, our little lion man. He’s nicknamed Leo the Lion Heart.”  “I was 36 weeks pregnant when an ultra sound showed he had a heart condition. It was a total, gut wrenching shock to us. Everything was going beautifully through the pregnancy and we already had one beautiful, healthy girl, Alexandra, who’ll be three next month. “We had to relocate to Brisbane as the Mater is the only hospital in Queensland that can care for congenital heart defects like Leo’s which is called TGA or transposition of the great arteries. “A week after the first operation he had open heart surgery which was basically reconstructive surgery which involved putting the vessels in their correct chambers of the heart. It’s called a switch operation.” Lisa said Leo has also had two other open heart surgeries because of complications and two other operations because of diaphragm and lung issues. “These surgeries are so intricate. You are operating on a heart the size of a walnut.” She said a “blue baby” like Leo would not have survived more than a couple of days 30 years ago but “advances in medical science means it’s just phenomenal what they can do these days. We were very lucky.” According to HeartKids Queensland six children are born every day in Australia with childhood heart disease (CHD) and every week four children die. “The people from HeartKids were so supportive,” Lisa said. “From the first moment we were in the cardiac ward, there were always family care co-ordinators around. They were mothers of heart kids themselves that are now paid by the charity to come in to the hospital and offer counselling and help to people who need accommodation in Brisbane. “We are doing this fundraiser just to try and pay them back for being there to help us. When you look at Leo now you wouldn’t know what he has gone through. He looks like a very normal little boy but his first six months were a really rocky road. “We thought he wasn’t going to make it and that’s true of a lot of heart kids in hospital. It’s not a certainty. His heart condition is as good as they can get it. There may possibly be more surgery down the track but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Does she see him being a cricketer or a rugby player when he grows up? She grinned: “I’d like to see him as a heart surgeon. Whatever makes him happy. We’re so lucky to have him.” The “Two Feet and a Heartbeat” Charity Walk will start at 3pm from Lions Park on Saturday, February 15 and will take in Hastings Street, along the boardwalk to Noosa National Park and back to Lions Park for a barbecue and raffle draws. Organisers have asked everyone wear something red, the HeartKids colour. Raffle tickets for prizes already totalling $3500 are available at Live Life pharmacies in Noosa Fair, Noosa Junction, Noosaville, Coolum Beach, Peregian Springs Shopping Centre, Amcal Pharmacies at Coolum Village and Noosa Village, Gibson Road, Noosaville as well as Noosa Heads Pharmacy, 32 Hastings Street,  Noosa Heads. Donations can also be made at the pharmacies or online at HeartKids charityweb page https://give.everydayhero.com/au/two-feet-and-a-heart-beat