Little Hero – George

When he was seven years old, George was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy a condition that's very rare in children, with only a few hundred people in the UK developing it in childhood. Here his mum, Serena, tells their story. 

“George was born with two small holes in his heart and a thickness in his heart muscles," explains Serena. "But his doctors monitored him with scans and appointments, and he could live life as normal. He loved playing football, he was a really active little boy.” 

This changed when George was first diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, aged seven. Because this condition is so rare in children, it was decided he needed specialist care and monitoring and was referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). 

Serena recalls: “We travelled down from Hull to London and stayed in the family accommodation near the hospital as it was such a long way from home. The nurses were amazing, as they continue to be to this day. They made us feel really comfortable and like a part of their family. George underwent scans and assessments to see if he was a candidate for surgery.” 

A candidate for a myectomy 

When he was eight years old, George was confirmed as a candidate for open-heart surgery. As his GOSH consultant, Dr Kaski, explains: “Sometimes medication alone is not enough."

Dr Kaski's surgical colleagues were to operate on his heart, shaving a little bit of the muscle off to allow blood to flow out of the heart more freely. 

“It’s a major heart operation: there are relatively few centres and relatively few surgeons who are able to perform it, particularly on children,” Dr Kaski adds.

"Here at GOSH, we have a myectomy programme and we have a surgeon who is extremely experienced at performing this operation, particularly on children.” 

The day of George’s surgery was an emotional one, as Serena recalls: “When we arrived at the hospital at 7am, the medical team talked to George about what they would do during the operation. 

George Coope, mum and dad in corridor

“The moment we left him as he was being taken into theatre was awful for me. I hadn’t cried that day until then, because I didn’t want him to be worried or see me upset before he went for his operation. The operation was due to last around six hours. It was the longest day of my life. It was surreal, it just felt like forever.”

Then, at last, George’s parents Serena and Steve got the call they’d been waiting for. The operation had been a success. 

George's recovery

“Seeing him for the first time was really daunting as he had so many tubes going in and out of him, and there were lots machines bleeping. I’d only imagined him in a bed, not all wired up, so it was quite a shock,” Serena remembers. 

George’s recovery progressed well at GOSH, as Serena explains: “George was moved from the Intensive Care Unit to the High Dependency Bay on Bear Ward, where staff are specially trained to look after children with cardiac conditions, after just one day.

"He came off his ventilator soon after. Then he moved into his own bedroom on Bear Ward, with an extra bed for me so I could stay next to him. To have the facilities so I could stay overnight in his George’s room was fantastic, I just don’t know what I’d have done without that. On day three of his recovery, he was up and walking! I couldn’t believe how quickly he seemed to bounce back.” 

George will continue to visit GOSH to be monitored and treated until he’s 18 years old, when he will transfer to adult services. Serena feels reassured, saying: “It’s always quite a pleasant experience to come back to GOSH because everyone’s so nice and we know George is getting the best care. We travel a long way to get here, but for your child you would travel to the ends of the earth." 

George and his dad

More and more about George’s condition is being discovered each day, as Dr Kaski explains: “There’s a lot of research around this condition, and we are involved in a lot of this research – some of it funded by Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, and some of it funded by the British Heart Foundation." 

George has had to make significant changes to his life to accommodate his condition, but with the help of Dr Kaski and his team, George is still able to play football. 

As Dr Kaski explains: “The aim of everything we do is to try and help the children to live as normal a life as we can. George has to be a little bit careful in terms of how strenuously he exercises or how competitively he plays football, but things like changing his position in the football team is a good way of helping him continue to do something he enjoys and that his friends do, without putting him at an increased risk. I understand he was a very skilful right winger, but he’s now moved to a goalkeeper and he’s very good in this position too.” 

Giving something back 

Giving something back is really important to the whole family, as Serena says: “George has had excellent care at GOSH so we wanted to raise some money for the hospital. We took part in Bake it Better in 2017 and 2018. The hospital does so much for poorly children and without it we probably wouldn’t be in the position we are in now, we owe them a lot. All our family and friends agree it’s an amazing charity to raise money for and I think people should definitely get involved and show their support.” 

Supporting Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity 

We raise money to enable GOSH to provide world-class care for its young patients and families in many ways, including supporting expertise in rare conditions affecting children like George. The dedicated team of doctors and nurses at GOSH interact with more than 160 patients and siblings each day 

Get involved and help raise money for GOSH. Join our Facebook and Twitter community. Or, sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with all the amazing things that take place at the hospital and charity each day.