Heart-op youngster fronts new TV campaign

Young diver Patrick Convery after training at the Royal Commonwealth Pool. Pic: 'Ian Rutherford

Young diver Patrick Convery after training at the Royal Commonwealth Pool. Pic: 'Ian Rutherford

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A youngster who had to undergo a life-saving heart operation as a newborn is the bew face of a TV ad campaign by the British Heart Foundation.

Little Patrick Convery may lack a few inches on his classmates after receiving a life-saving heart operation as a newborn but the gutsy seven-year-old now punches above his weight as an athlete.

From high-diving to abseiling, the pint-sized competitor has excelled and has now been selected to front a new TV ad campaign for the British Heart Foundation.

Patrick is an ambassador for the charity’s new Wear It. Beat It. project, which asks the nation to wear red one day in February to raise awareness of heart conditions.

His athletic prowess is all the more remarkable because he endured urgent surgery as a 12-week-old infant to repair a hole in his heart.

Having shed half his birthweight, Patrick was rushed to the operating table with doctors predicting his heart would not hold out much longer.

It was discovered he also suffered from pulmonary stenosis – a condition that makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood through the body.

The plucky youngster survived a gruelling nine-hour operation but spent weeks hooked up to life support machines before parents Shane and Gabby could take him home to Craigleith. “Both of us were numb and we spent most of the day between us in tears,” his mother Gabby said.

“It was a huge shock because he’s almost no longer your child, just machines.

“You realise how dangerous this is for him and there is nothing you can do – the machines were keeping him alive.”

Despite recovering from the heart surgery Patrick continues to battle the impacts of stenosis to this day.

“He struggles to keep his energy levels up, and he hasn’t grown a lot,” said dad Shane.

“He’s the smallest in his class by several inches. But he hasn’t let that slow him down.

“He realises there’s ­certain things he can’t do as well as some other children, and so he works around those barriers by using his head.” Patrick scales huge walls at climbing centres and is a now competitive swimmer and diver.

“He’s a little daredevil,” said Shane. “After seeing Tom Daley at the world series in 2013, Patrick became totally hooked on diving. We’ve always got him at the Royal ­Commonwealth swimming pool and he’s totally fearless on the 7ft board. Although it makes me a little nervous to watch.”

Outside the pool, mum Gabby said Patrick’s fighting spirit is also turning heads – in the ring.

“He decided he wanted to start judo recently, with his friends who are twice the size of him,” she said. “Patrick was in a bout recently. He was supposed to push the other boy, but he pulled him instead and won the bout.”

She added that Patrick is an inspiration to her other three boys – Jake, Danny and ­Robbie. “My eldest is quiet and reserved, so Patrick does all the talking for him,” said Gabby.

“And in something like ­football where Patrick may be struggling more, Jake looks after him. So they are an amazing team. They work on their strengths.”

Now, the budding sport star has launched a new fight alongside the British Heart Foundation. In the last year alone, the BHF has spent £7 million in research to find new ways to fight, prevent and cure heart disease.

Kate Coleman, marketing manager at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Patrick is one of four children who have a serious heart condition and feature in our new TV advert raising awareness of heart disease. The lifesaving research that the charity has funded over the last 50 years has played its part in keeping these children with their families today.”

The charity’s Wear It. Beat It. fundraiser kicks off on February 6.

nash.riggins@edinburghnews.com