Survivor backs heart unit action

6th May 2011' Colin Wroe, 55, was born with three holes in his heart and had a life-saving operation when he was six. He was told he wouldn't live past 20, but is still going strong. He said he owes his life to the LGI children's heart unit, which has been threatened with closure.' PICTURE: MATTHEW PAGE
6th May 2011' Colin Wroe, 55, was born with three holes in his heart and had a life-saving operation when he was six. He was told he wouldn't live past 20, but is still going strong. He said he owes his life to the LGI children's heart unit, which has been threatened with closure.' PICTURE: MATTHEW PAGE

A HEART patient who defied the odds of survival says he is a living example of why a children’s surgery unit must be saved from closure.

Colin Wroe, of Doncaster Road, Crofton, was born with three holes in his heart and had to undergo a gruelling and experimental operation at Leeds General Infirmary when he was just six.

Doctors told the brave youngster he would not live past the age of 20.

Now 54, the car body repair specialist said he owes his life, job and happiness to the hospital’s children’s heart unit, which is currently in threat of being closed due to budget cuts.

Mr Wroe said: “In the 1960s heart surgery was brand new and it was a massive thing. There was a lot of risk involved – but they did a great job and I have carried on quite a normal life.

“The fact I have made it this far is my argument for the unit staying open. Without it, children of the future may not get to have the same quality of life I’ve had.”

Mr Wroe’s ‘miracle’ operation made national headlines in 1962. He could not go to school until he was seven, and his condition left him unable to play sports.

He had valve replacement surgery at the age of 21, and had his first pacemaker fitted 10 years ago after he collapsed at work.

But Mr Wroe, who lives with his wife Julie, said he is extremely grateful for his new lease on life.

He said: “I’ve never been able to play sport, but when you have something for your entire life you just learn to get on with things. At least I’m here. I can’t thank the heart unit enough.”

If the Leeds heart unit closes, patients and their families will be faced with two-hour journeys to Liverpool or Newcastle.

The Children’s Heart Surgery Fund (CHSF) is fundraising and running a petition to help rescue the unit. For more information, visit www.chsf.org.uk