LOOKING at Stacey Thompson beam at her little girl Scarlette, you would have no idea what a rollercoaster ride the last 18 months have been.
For while Scarlette, or ‘Lottie’, as she is affectionately known by her family, looks like a happy, healthy little 13-month-old, her appearance hides just how poorly the tot was.
And Stacey, now 19, isn’t like other teen mums – she took her first A levels exams just days after giving birth.
She managed to cope with her final year of school, at St Mary’s School, Blackpool, while little Scarlette was undergoing countless tests, being rushed to hospital and Stacey was fighting to get a correct diagnosis for her little girl – who doctors eventually discovered was suffering from severe pulmonary stenosis and a hole in her heart. It was a tough year for the teen, who says she would never have got through it but for the support of her teachers and the head of sixth form, who, she says “went above and beyond the call of duty.”
Stacey, who has provisionally been offered a place to study paediatric medicine at Salford University in September, said: “I was 16 years old and was waiting my GCSE results, doing what normal teenagers do, when I discovered I had fallen pregnant.”
Stacey contacted St Mary’s School, who said they would be happy for her to attend and support her in any way they could. She struggled through a difficult and ‘sick’ pregnancy. Scarlette was due two weeks before Stacey’s exams, but was actually born two weeks late, just three days before the first exam.
Stacey, of South Shore, haemorrhaged badly during the birth and lost a lot of blood.
She was worried her year of dragging herself to school “sick and wobbling” would have been wasted, but the school said the teachers were prepared to come to hospital to sit with her during exams or find a private room for her at school. She took her exams supported by her teachers, but the stress wasn’t over.
She said: “Scarlette was a beautiful baby, but we realised something wasn’t quite right. She was extremely pale, with blue lips, and when she cried she had no strength. She reminded me of a little bird tweeting for food in its nest.”
“She struggled to breathe and couldn’t feed. What food she did eat, she just couldn’t keep down. She spent the first six weeks of her life in and out of Victoria Hospital.”
Doctors thought the tiny girl had a valve in her heart which hadn’t closed and a small hole in the heart, but she remained ill and had to be rushed to hospital on several occasions – often in the early hours of the morning.
Scarlette was getting paler and weaker and the family had to cancel a holiday they planned to Majorca.
A family friend, whose daughter had died from a heart problem, had advised Stacey’s mum to contact an expert at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital for advice and, eventually, Scarlette was referred there.
She was rushed into heart surgery after being diagnosed with a congenital heart defect called severe pulmonary stenosis and a hole in her heart.
Stacey was told one in three cases of balloon pulmonary valvotomy transcatheter operations did not work.
She said: “After an agonising six-hour wait in the parents’ room and the chapel praying, she was brought back from theatre and it was successful.”
There is no cure for Scarlette’s condition, but the family hopes she will get to the age of 12 before she has to have a transplant for the broken heart valve.
Stacey said: “The difference the heart surgery has made to Scarlette’s life is remarkable. She is thriving, eating, growing. She will receive ongoing care at Alder Hey, who were fantastic. She is our little miracle.
“Mrs Murray and Mrs Pickworth of St Mary’s School even took it upon themselves to write a letter of explanation to back up my applications to university.
“The letter made my mum cry so much when she read it.
“I honestly believe without the help and support from my teachers and the chaplain at St Mary’s I would have become just another statistical drop-out. I feel truly blessed for all the ups and downs of the last two years.”
Grandma Jane Thompson added: “It was like a black cloud for the whole year. It was a horrible time, but now Scarlette is doing so well. I am so proud of Stacey, most people would have given up at school but she has done brilliantly. And she is a fantastic mum.”