Six-year-old Joey Watts, from Beverley, East Yorkshire, underwent an eight-hour operation at Leeds Children’s Hospital to widen the blood vessel about four months ago.
The procedure which came with a one-in-10 chance of survival was successful but it left Joey with a 9cm scar down the center of his chest.
“When Joey saw the scar, he just said, ‘Is this where they have cut me to fix my heart?’” Mrs Watts said.
“We’ve told him it should be something to be proud of and he shouldn’t be ashamed by what has happened to him. All of these warriors should be proud of their scars and all they achieve in life.” She added.
On the day after Joey was discharged from hospital, his father, Martin Watts, went to a local tattoo parlor to have a replica of his son’s scar tattooed on his chest to show Joey it is nothing to be ashamed of. Mr Watts also had his son’s heartbeat tattooed on his chest to the right of the scar design.
Joey’s brother, seven-year-old Harley, was also diagnosed with the same condition, supravalvular aortic stenosis, when he was 14 weeks old. SVAS is a congenital disorder that narrows the large vessel carrying blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
“We have another little boy called Harley with the same condition who will also be having surgery in the near future. So to us this is an amazing thing to do to spread awareness, and maybe encourage a few more people help to fund-raise for such a fantastic cause.” Mrs. Watts said.
The Watts family are supporting the “#ScarSelfie” campaign being promoted by the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund (CHSF), which hopes to inspire, encourage and enlighten others about the plight of those with heart diseases.
#ScarSelfie celebrates patients with congenital heart diseases and encourages them to share intimate photos of their scars. The campaign also encourages donations to CHSF, which provides aid to the Leeds Congenital Heart Unit at Leeds Children’s Hospital.
Sharon Milner, CEO of CHSF, said, “We fully understand that showing a scar picture is a very personal decision and not for everyone. We are blown away by the bravery and resilience of the hundreds of CHD patients who undergo open-heart surgery and life-saving procedures at the Leeds Congenital Heart Unit every day – like Joey.”
“This campaign is one way of celebrating the incredible stories of these heart warriors. Please do take part if you can, and support our wonderful cause by way of donations.” She added.
Joey will require three more operations to widen his pulmonary branches and stretch his blood vessels.