A MOTHER whose son has spent his life in and out of hospital with a congenital heart defect wants to raise awareness of his life-threatening condition.

Samantha Dunlop, 20, who lives in Weymouth, aims to make parents more aware of congenital heart defects.

Her son Liam, who is now five and goes to Holy Trinity School, was born at Southampton Hospital on February 15, 2009 with a heart condition called pulmonary atresia.

The brave youngster has been in and out of intensive care and surgery all his life, from having a Blalock-Taussig Shunt (BT Shunt) fitted when he was one day old, to a homograft – another person’s heart valve – fitted at five months old after struggling to breathe properly.

When he was two, Liam’s body rejected the homograft, which is normally expected to last up to five years, and had to be replaced.

A BT Shunt is used to help increase blood flow to the lungs in babies born with defects that obstruct this blood flow. A tube is placed between the subclavian artery and lung artery.

Samantha said: “I knew nothing about congenital heart defects at all before I was pregnant with Liam and want to raise awareness of them.

“People with heart defects are likely to need operations throughout their life; when Liam is an adult every 15 years he will need an operation to have his homograft replaced.

“Often, you cannot see that people with heart conditions have anything wrong with them and children’s heart diseases are the number one killer every year – more than cancer.

“I didn’t know what to expect during my pregnancy and to be honest it was terrifying. We had no family history of heart defects and Liam was in intensive care for four weeks after he was born.”

Samantha added that she has received ‘amazing support’ from her parents Marie and Alistair Dunlop and from Liam’s cardiologist in Southampton.

She said: “Liam is perfectly happy and is progressing well, though his speech can be slow.”

BRAVE youngster Liam has been granted the trip of a lifetime with a visit to Disneyland Florida after his mother contacted The Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The foundation grants wishes to children and young people fighting life-threatening conditions.

Samantha said: “Liam had seen pictures of Disneyland from his grandparents and I knew he would love to go so I contacted the foundation to see if we were eligible for a wish.

“I can’t thank them enough – both Liam and I are over the moon.”

  • Pulmonary atresia is a condition where blood cannot flow between the right pumping chamber – right ventricle – into the lungs to pick up oxygen.

Often, this is because the large blood vessel that carries blood to the lungs – the pulmonary artery – hasn’t developed properly, and the right ventricle is smaller than usual.

The valve linking the right ventricle and the right filling chamber, or atria, may also be narrowed or closed.

Pulmonary atresia is a form of congenital heart disease – a term used to describe a problem with the heart’s structure and function due to abnormal development before birth.

According to the British Heart Foundation, in the 1950s eight out of ten babies with a complex congenital heart condition died before their first birthday.

Today, thanks to advances in treatment and care, more than eight out of 10 babies with congenital heart disease grow up to be adults.