A teenager who had lifesaving surgery after diagnosing herself with a serious heart condition has been told she has just 10 years to start a family and live out her dreams.
Now brave Jade Johnson – who is recovering from the open heart surgery she had just nine weeks ago – has drawn up a wish list of life goals she wants to achieve in the next decade.
Doctors have told her that in 10 years time she will need another major operation to fit a mechanical valve on to her heart and she will have to take blood-thinning drug warfarin for the rest of her life.
That means the 19-year-old will bruise easily, and if she cuts herself it will take a long time to stop bleeding.
That means having children on the drug is a risk she feels she cannot take.
But Jade, a beauty therapist student at Ansdell College, spoke of her determination to live her life to the full before and after the procedure.
She has drawn up a list of things she wants to achieve including sky diving, visiting orphanages abroad and travelling the world.
She said: “I’m trying not to think about all the things I won’t be able to do – for now I’m focussing on finishing college and going to university to study adult nursing.”
Incredibly, Jade, of Glenholme Gardens, Poulton, diagnosed herself when she was just 12 years old, after becoming worried that she had a heart condition.
She had constantly suffered with migranes since the age of seven and doctors had put her on tablets – but they didn’t get rid of the severe headaches. Aged 12 she watched a programme on TV about migraines which said a number of women who suffer them have a hole in their heart.
Convinced this was the case, Jade made her mother, Sarah, take her to the doctor.
Tests confirmed a congenital heart disease known as Mitral Valve Disease.
She was referred to Royal Preston Hospital’s child cardiology unit, and last year, when she was 18, she was transferred to Manchester Royal Infirmary ahead of the open heart surgery.
Surgeons repaired as much of her heart valve as they could, but it is a temporary fix that will wear out the more strain that’s put on Jade’s heart as it struggles to pump blood around her body.
In the next five to 10 years she will have another operation to install the mechanical valve.
“The more I do, the more it will suffer wear and tear,” she said. “Having a baby will take a few years off the valve’s life but once I am on warfarin it will be much more difficult to have children.”
Jade said as well as starting a family, she would have to cram in all the adventurous things she wants to do in life in the next five to 10 years.
It includes a trip around Thailand and travelling the world.
She said: “For my 21st I am going to visit orphanages and ride on an elephants which I wouldn’t be able to do on warfarin because of the risk of bruising.
“I just have to rush everything now to get the things I want do to done, like go to university and have kids.
“Luckily I have a partner who has been really supportive, but it has put pressure on us both as well as on my family.”
Jade said, despite her fears, her diagnosis took her by surprise because she had never felt ill.
She said: “When I was about 15 I started to notice I wasn’t able to do things my friends were able to and I couldn’t keep up with them in sports. I was out of breath a lot, but as I got older it just became a way of life and I changed the way I did things.
“It did get to me a bit, but there was nothing I could have done about it and I wouldn’t risk doing harm to myself.”
Even when Jade has been fitted with the valve, she faces a life-time of operations as it will need replacing every 15 years.
“I just hope that before then there will have been advances in the technology,” she added.
“I never imagined how I would feel after the operation. I thought I would be up and about, able to go back to college and work straight away but my whole life has changed.”
• To support the cause, donations can be made to www.justgiving.com/Jadenorthe