Devastated Bedfordshire woman discovered newborn had critical heart condition, while still grieving loss of mum to heart attack

Seren in hospital
Seren in hospital

A woman who lost her mother to a heart attack – just one year before discovering her newborn daughter had a heart condition – will raise money for the British Heart Foundation’s life saving research this weekend.

Donna Mainwaring, 33, was left devastated when her mum, Cheryl, passed away following a heart attack in November 2016.

Donna Mainwaring and her mum Cheryl

Donna Mainwaring and her mum Cheryl

But whilst mourning the sudden loss of her mother, Donna discovered she was pregnant. In November 2017, she gave birth to her daughter, Seren.

However, during a newborn physical examination, medics spotted that something was wrong with Seren. She was admitted to intensive care, where she spent the next 10 days whilst further tests were carried out.

Seren was then transferred to the neonatal unit at Royal Brompton Hospital, which is two-and-a-half hours away from the family’s home. There, it was discovered that Seren had been born with a large hole in her heart, a defect that had developed in the womb.

“It was such a traumatic time,” added mum-of-five Donna, from Tebworth.

Seren

Seren

“I needed to be with Seren, as she was so poorly and fragile, but I had other children at home who needed me too.”

Seren was just one month old when doctors told Donna that her baby daughter would need open heart surgery. The family were given a date for the operation, but Seren suddenly took a turn for the worse. Surgeons carried out emergency surgery, and then Seren suffered from further complications, which resulted in her needing a second high-risk operation.

Donna said: “That day was awful, but the surgeons and all the medical staff were amazing. They saved Seren’s life.”

Following the operations, Seren’s road to recovery was a long one and she also needed further surgery on her diaphragm. She was allowed home after 13 weeks, but required tube feeding until she was 10 months old.

Donna had to quickly learn how to operate the feeding tube and also how to administer injections twice a day to treat a blot clot that Seren had developed as a result of her condition.

“Within just a few months my life had completely changed,” added Donna.

“I lost my Mum, but gained Seren, and then had the anguish of watching her fight for her life. But she did fight, she doesn’t seem phased by anything she’s been through and I’m so proud of her.

“My sons always say to me ‘Nanny couldn’t stay with us, but she gave her broken heart to Seren’, so the thought that a piece of my Mum is with Seren is a comfort.”

Now a happy, playful 19-month-old, Seren has made an incredible recovery, although she may need further surgery in the future.

Donna’s experience inspired her to sign up for the British Heart Foundation’s Blenheim Palace 2K Family Fun Run, to raise funds for vital research into heart and circulatory conditions.

Donna added: “I’m not a runner by any means, but I wanted to do something to raise awareness of heart conditions. I would say to anyone that, if something doesn’t feel right, please go and see your GP.

“I’m proud to give something back to the BHF, as they are the biggest funders of cardiovascular research in the UK, something that Seren and my family have certainly benefited from.”

Donna will be among 5,000 runners expected to take part in this year’s BHF Blenheim Palace Half Marathon, 10K or Family Fun Run.

The annual event, which last year raised £250,000 for the British Heart Foundation’s life saving research, will take place on Sunday, September29 at the Blenheim Palace Estate in Oxfordshire.

In what will mark the 10th year of the event, participants will have the choice of taking on a 13.1-mile run, a 10K or a 2K Family Fun Run.

The Half Marathon and 10K will offer tough courses with plenty of hills thrown in, but the stunning scenery and impressive finish in front of the Palace will help runners power through.

The 2K Family Fun Run is a chance to get the whole family involved, with a scenic route from the lake to the finish line in front of the Palace. All Half Marathon and 10K runners will get automatic entry into the 2K run.

Leanne Postlethwaite, Event Organiser at the BHF, said: “We want to say a massive thank you to Donna for signing up to the BHF’s Blenheim Palace Event and taking the steps to help us beat heartbreak forever.

“We’re now calling for more people to sign up to this event. By challenging yourself to take on the Blenheim Palace Half Marathon, 10K or 2K Family Fun Run, you will be funding life saving research that will end the devastation caused by heart and circulatory disease once and for all.

“Every step you take will help bring us closer to the day when families aren’t torn apart by conditions like stroke, vascular dementia and coronary heart disease. With more than 7 million people living with the daily burden of these conditions in the UK, the need for your support to fund more lifesaving breakthroughs has never been more urgent.”

To sign up, or to find out more, visit www.bhf.org.uk/blenheim.