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Boy who beat two life-threatening conditions starts secondary school this September

News   •   Aug 13, 2018 14:47 BST

At six years old Niall underwent lifesaving surgery to replace his aortic valve

A boy who overcame meningitis and heart failure at just six years old is preparing to start secondary school this September.

Niall Manning, from Lincoln, caught bacterial meningitis when he was five years old and although the infection was treated early, unbeknown to doctors it had completely destroyed the aortic valve in his heart. Seven months later, after noticing that Niall was becoming increasingly lethargic, his concerned parents, Michelle and Stephen Manning, took him to Lincoln County Hospital where doctors realised he was in heart failure. Within hours, Niall was rushed to Leeds Children’s Hospital, over 90 miles away from home, where he underwent lifesaving surgery to replace his aortic valve. During his time at Leeds Children’s Hospital, his parents were supported with free ‘Home from Home’ accommodation run by The Sick Children’s Trust at its Eckersley House, one of the charity’s ten ‘Homes from Home’ across the country.

Four years on, Niall is an energetic 11 year old, and has fully recovered from his operation. He is no longer on medication and is living a happy, healthy life and looking forward to making lots of new friends at secondary school. Mum Michelle says:

“There are times when I think back to how poorly Niall was and can’t believe we’ve come this far. When Niall started recovering from meningitis, we thought we were over the worst of it. So taking him to Lincoln Hospital as a precaution, and being told he was in such a critical condition, was a massive shock. Within a few minutes, and with just a few words, my world was shattered. Before I knew it we were travelling over two hours away from home for emergency heart surgery.

“For over a month, Stephen and I called Eckersley House our home whilst Niall recovered from his operation. The first couple of days were the worst as we weren’t sure if the surgery had been a success. It was touch and go. There was no way we were going to move far from Niall’s bedside when he was still in such a serious condition, and because of The Sick Children’s Trust we didn’t have to.

“Eckersley House wasn’t just a source of support practically, but also emotionally. Being able to chat to other families in the communal dining area was so comforting. You’re able to share all your worries and fears, knowing that they’re in a similar situation. I can’t put into words how therapeutic that was for me.”

“Secondary school is a huge milestone for us to reach and Niall is quite nervous because he’ll be a little fish in a big pond. But I know he’ll love it and will be brimming with excitement to tell us all about how it went!”

Every year The Sick Children’s Trust provides much-needed emotional and practical support to around 4,000 families with seriously ill children in hospital. Eckersley House Manager, Jane McHale says:

“Its amazing to hear that four years on, Niall is doing so well and is living life to the full since his operation. He is a complete inspiration and we wish him the best of luck starting secondary school in the next couple of months – he’ll love it!”

For further information about The Sick Children’s Trust, please visit http://www.sickchildrenstrust.org/

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