Lily’s story, told by dad, Richard

“On the 10th May 1990 our second child, Lily Doyle, was born. She was quite frail and was sick after most feeds, but in our limited experience as parents (one other child at 18 months old) this was quite normal.”

This continued for the first month of Lily’s life and she did not appear to be gaining weight. Our GP was unconcerned but my wife (Sarah) became so concerned towards the end of Lily’s first month of life that she called a GP out to the house.


Fortunately, he saw something was wrong and whisked Lily straight into Harrogate Hospital where she was diagnosed with a hole in her heart. Lily was immediately transferred to the Congenital Heart Unit at Killingbeck Hospital in Leeds.

Our lives fell apart at this point as Lily was kept in hospital whilst they tried to build her up to be strong enough to have open heart surgery. This also had an impact on our care for our 18 month old son as Sarah and I spent every day at the unit – and saw what a fantastic job they did.


After two months in the hospital, Lily had gained sufficient weight to risk the operation to close the hole (with pigskin!) but there was no guarantee it would be a success. Lily was taken to theatre in the arms of a porter who insisted we said goodbye to her – not easy.

The good news is that the operation was a great success and we brought Lily home within a week of the operation. We were apprehensive about the outcome of the operation but it was as if someone had flicked a switch. The pale, frail baby that went into the operation exited intensive care with colour in her cheeks and thereafter was a normal baby.


Check ups were initially every month, then three months, then six months, then annually, then every three years until she was a teenager when she was discharged – and fortunately she has been perfectly normal since.

The even better news is that she is now a bright, bubbly and beautiful 29 year old fitness fanatic whose only legacy of her time at the Heart Unit is a couple of scars and the only restriction being that she cannot have her ears pierced as this could cause an infection which might migrate to the heart.


The help and support we received as young, inexperienced parents from the team at the Heart Unit was unbelievable.

Shortly after Lily’s operation a fundraising ball was planned and my wife Sarah joined the committee. A great ball was organised at Harewood House with the ‘fake’ Rolling Stones as the turn. I was asked to tell Lily’s story to the assembled party goers and many a tear was shed.

Sadly I can’t remember how much money was raised but it was a healthy sum which went towards the great work that CHSF do in supporting the Leeds Congenital Heart Unit.

Inspired by Lily’s story? Want to get involved and start raising vital funds to support Yorkshire’s heart patients? Click here to get started on your fundraising journey!