Jessica Ives, 28, from Leeds was born with Aortic Stenosis, which is a narrowing of the exit of the left ventricle of the heart.

She underwent a pulmonary graft at the age of 15 at the Leeds General Infirmary and as a result wanted to show her support for the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund by exhibiting her portrait at the Keeping the Beat gallery event on 19th May.

Jessica did not have any cardiac treatment during the first few years of her childhood and only saw the condition impact on her everyday life when she started to play netball at secondary school. Jessica says:

Contact sport is not really advised for someone with my condition, but I never wanted to feel limited and really enjoyed playing, so I spoke to the relevant people at school to find a way.

In her mid-teens she started to feel her heart condition was having a greater effect on her life and she suffered with fatigue which stopped her from doing some of the activities she wanted to. Jessica underwent the Ross Procedure at the LGI under Dr. Watterson in 2003. Jessica continues:

My stay in hospital is still crystal clear in my memory and it was a really scary time. The hardest part was going into the ward on the Sunday ready to have the operation the following day.

Only my mum was allowed to stay with me and that night we both broke down. I think it’s sometimes easy to forget the impact these experiences have on all of the people around you, not just the person being treated.

The liaison officers and the rest of the team at the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund are fantastic and go above and beyond what we could have wished for. They are a brilliant team and we will forever thank them for everything they have done for me and my family.

Jessica now lives a fun and active life and does everything a normal 28 year old does. She adds:

 I haven’t had to have further surgery since 2003 and don’t feel limited; there are a few things I can’t do, but I just find an alternative, rather than seeing it as a barrier.

I think Children’s Heart Surgery Fund is a great charity and there needs to be more attention given to it to help future generations who will rely on the services that me and my peers have already benefitted from.