Little Olivia Ayris thinks her dad Dave is “wheely” great – and the feeling’s mutual.
The six-year-old is always on the go – despite already having had three life-saving heart operations.
To say a big thank-you to the doctors and nurses who are taking care of her, Olivia’s dad was setting off on a 48-hour coast-to- coast cycle challenge today.
The 38-year-old outdoor education lecturer is joining some of Olivia’s other relatives to cycle from Silloth on the Cumbrian coast to Roker Pier in Sunderland, to raise funds for the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund at Leeds General Infirmary.
It was there that Olivia, who only has one heart chamber that works, had her first open-heart surgery when she was only four weeks old. She had another life-saving procedure when she was two and another in January this year, which kept her in hospital for four weeks and off school for another month.
Her mum Elaine says Olivia, a pupil at Priestthorpe Primary, Bingley, loves swimming and dancing and does not let her condition stop her from living life to the full. “She copes very well,” she said.
“Summer is better for her because she gets very cold in winter and goes blue.
“She’s absolutely gorgeous and runs round us all the time. She just loves being busy.”
Olivia, of Falcon Road, Bingley, has to have blood tests every week because she is on the blood-thinning drug Warfarin. Her next operation will be a heart transplant when she is a teenager. Mrs Ayris, who also has a five-year-old son, Alexander, said: “It’s a difficult thing to say but I’d ask any mum or dad to encourage their children to carry an organ donor card.”
Olivia’s dad is hoping the cycle challenge will bring in £1,000 for the fund that has helped his daughter.
“The Fund has been a tremendous help, organising lessons so she didn’t fall behind in class – making sure she had videos, games, toys all those sorts of things that a little girl enjoys,” he said.
“The cycling trip is just a way of saying how much we appreciate everything they do for us and trying to give something back.”
To help, send a cheque made payable to the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund to the Jubilee Building, Ward 10, Leeds General Infirmary, Leeds LS1 3EX.