Yorkshire Evening Post 
Tuesday 5 May 2020 
By Joanna Wardill 

She is only ten weeks old but little heart hero Evie Dickie has already undergone two major operations after doctors diagnosed her with a life-threatening heart defect days after birth.

The brave tot has battled through two rounds of critical treatment at Leeds General Infirmary’s congenital heart unit – the second of which took place after the coronavirus pandemic began – having been born with coarctation – or narrowing – of the aorta and a faulty heart valve.

Now home and recovering well, her momentous journey has inspired her parents to embark on a gruelling challenge and give back to the unit and its “amazing” charity, the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund.

Evie Dickie, ten weeks old, with her parents Neil and Claire who are climbing the equivalent of Mount Kilimanjaro on their home staircase this week. Copyright: other

Proving the lockdown is no barrier to impressive fundraising feats, Claire, 31, and Neil Dickie, 32, of Harrogate, are this week climbing 36,680 steps – the equivalent of Mount Kilimanjaro – on their home staircase.

Each day they plan to climb roughly 100 flights of their 14-step staircase each, while carrying baby Evie in the sling.

They have so far raised over £3,000, smashing their initial target of £1,000, and said despite the pain involved they know it is “nothing” compared to what their daughter has been through.

Mum Claire said:

Both of us just think if she can have two surgeries and go though that at her age then we can manage to do this amount of steps. She’s been through so much. The steps will hurt but it will be nothing compared to that.

Little Evie was 11 days old when a midwife spotted her fast breathing rate during a routine appointment and sent the family to hospital.

Her first surgery was the day after the diagnosis and involved a four-hour operation, with surgeons accessing her heart through a hole in her side.

Sadly at her six-week check, test showed it had not been as successful as hoped and Evie had to undergo open heart surgery just over two weeks ago.

The high-risk six-hour operation took place under the strict new visiting rules, due to Covid-19, which meant dad Neil was not allowed onto the ICU or the ward during Evie’s entire hospital stay.

Luckily, thanks to accommodation provided by CHSF, he was able to stay nearby and be a support to wife Claire during the stressful time.

Evie Dickie, now ten weeks old, has had two major heart operations already. Copyright: other

Claire said:

It was amazing just to know that he was close by.

She said she felt under pressure, being on the ward without Neil but praised the unit’s staff for their support.

They were so helpful during such a strange and stressful time and I cannot thank them enough. And after a few more days recuperation on the ward Evie was well enough to go home. We were so glad to be together again as a family

Despite needing further surgery at some point in the future, Claire said little Evie is getting stronger every day and is now “becoming a lot more smiley”.

Little Evie Dickie, pictured during her time in the congenital heart unit at Leeds General Infirmary. Copyright: other

The couple are using the time Evie naps in the sling to carry her up and down the staircase in their tough challenge, spreading the steps out through the week with the aim of finishing on Saturday.

It’s hard work. We started on Sunday and I did 6,000 steps that day and another 4,000 the following morning. We hope to average about 100 flights each, each day.

As well as arranging accommodation, CHSF also provides care packages and financial help for families as well as funding costly equipment for the ward and staff training.

Like other charities, it has been hit hard by the pandemic and issued an urgent plea for support after estimating the next few months will leave a £300,000 funding gap.

We really wanted to say thank you and give back to them. We just wanted to try and do whatever we can.

Evie Dickie’s JustGiving page is currently on a total of £4440 raised for Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, with Evie’s daddy’s work matching anything the family raise (up to £3000). CHSF are blown away by this amazing family and are so very grateful – especially during such an uncertain time for everyone.