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A LITTLE girl has celebrated her second birthday after undergoing a life-saving heart transplant.
Doctors feared Scarlett Ungurs would not live if she had not received a donor organ after a virus left her with dilated cardiomyopathy aged six months.
Her parents Ashleigh Leybourne and Darren Ungurs lived in hope of finding a donor, but were left preparing for their daughter’s funeral until three months ago, when a heart was found.
Scarlett has recovered enough to go home and celebrated turning two at home with her family in Shiremoor, North Tyneside.
Ashleigh said: “As soon as we got her home from hospital she got back to normal. I think getting her home was a big step forward. She started walking and talking once we got home.”
Scarlett has spent half her young life in the Freeman’s Children’s Heart Unit and last July she was placed on the emergency transplant list and placed on a Berlin heart machine, an artificial heart which helped the left side of her heart pump blood around her body.
Miraculously, Scarlett’s heart began to improve and she was allowed to go home with her parents in November.
But in February this year, her condition deteriorated again and Scarlett was placed on the emergency transplant list in May. Scarlett’s heart was in a worse condition than last year and surgeons prepared her parents, who had started planning their daughter’s funeral, for the worst.
At 1am on August 26, Ashleigh and Darren got the call that a donor heart had been found and Scarlett was rushed into surgery.
Ashleigh, 27, said: “She is just normal and happy again.”
Scarlett’s family will gather for a small party today, but only adults are invited as Scarlett still needs to keep the risk of infection to a minimum.
Ashleigh said: “I am so scared about her getting a cold or anything. In March when the weather gets a bit warmer, and she’s had a few months to get stronger, we will go to play group and give her a chance to meet other kids.
“It’s been hard for us because we have been in isolation too but we are happy to do anything if it keeps her safe,” said Ashleigh, who has been able to return to work as a receptionist at North Tyneside General Hospital.
Last week, Scarlett’s parents took her on her first trip to the toy store after her isolation period ended.
“We were in a shop and a child sneezed near us and I just looked at Darren. But on the other side of things she needs to build up her strength and build her immune system back up,” said Ashleigh.
“If she gets something she could end up back in hospital and I am terrified of that. She’s on seven different medications three times a day, she was on double that in hospital but it has gone down a lot.”
While Scarlett was in hospital her family started fundraising for CHUF and so far have raised more than £3,000 through a charity bike ride which was organised by Ashleigh’s mother Pauline Leach.
“We just want to thank everyone at the Freeman who has got us to this stage,” said Ashleigh.
“If it was not for them and the surgeons, and in particular Scarlett’s donor family for making that decision, she would not be here today.”
I think getting her home was a big step forward. She started walking and talking once we got home