Caring NHS staff inspired young woman born with ‘half-functioning’ heart to become a doctor

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A young woman whose parents were offered a termination because of her “half-functioning” heart has become a doctor – after she was inspired by the NHS staff who cared for her.

Carys Allen had open heart surgery within days of her birth after only one of the heart’s pumping chambers developed properly in the womb.

She had three open heart operations by the age of four but faced another uphill struggle after she was diagnosed wtih dyselxia.

But she applied the same dogged determination to beat her health problems. she went on to obtain a masters in cancer and clinical oncology at Barts Cancer Institute in London in December 2019.

Earlier this month she graduated from a degree in medicine at the University of Liverpool, receiving a commendation.

The 24-year-old, from Telford, Shropshire said: “When people call me Dr Carys Allen it is so weird. I can’t get my head around it – but it is still really exciting.”

“Looking back on everything I’ve achieved, I wouldn’t change my heart condition – I wouldn’t go back and not be born with it.

“It’s instilled me with a great work ethic and inspired me to become a doctor, which has given me this amazing opportunity.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.”



Carys Allen in hospital as a child

Carys’s heart condition was first spotted at her mum Lynn’s 20-week scan.

A second scan revealed that the organ was so underdeveloped doctors deemed it “incompatible with life” and Lynn and Carys’s father Kevin were told they could either terminate the pregnancy.

They were wanted that their daughter would need numerous open-heart operations to have any chance of survival.

“My parents were devastated but, whatever the problems, they were always going to have me,” Carys said.

Around the same time, her mum and dad were introduced to Little Hearts Matter, which supports families with single ventricle defects.

The charity has supported the family ever since.

Carys had her final open heart surgery aged eight and, since then, has only needed minor operations to make small changes, such as putting in stents to keep coronary arteries open.

She also has check-ups and MRI scans to make sure everything is functioning.

“From as far back as I can remember, I’ve always known I had something wrong with my heart,” she said.

“I do remember kicking up a fuss on the morning of the operation when I was four, saying I was scared and didn’t want to have it.

“But my parents were brilliant at calming me down and explaining to me that it was for all the right reasons.”



Carys and her mum Lynn

She enjoyed a relatively normal childhood but remembers running out of breath when playing tag in the playground with friends.

Carys has since worked hard on her stamina, taking up ballet, tap and modern dance as a child, and now exercises most days.

After spending a lot of her young life in and out of hospital, Carys became fond of the play therapists who kept her company while she recuperated.

When she was 15, she then set her sights on becoming a doctor.

“I didn’t think you could just ‘become a doctor,’” she said. “I thought being a doctor was something out of my reach and hadn’t really thought it was an option for me. So, when it was suggested, I was like, ‘Why not?’.

” I loved the idea of being able to help people, especially children, in the same way that doctors had helped me.”

Her dream looked beyond her reach when Carys was predicted a mixture of Cs and Ds in every subject at GCSE, besides science, for which she was predicted Bs, instead of the As she needed.

She researched the grades she needed to get into medical school and from then on, says she was “study, study, study”.

She went on to obtain two A*s and an A at A Level – securing her a place at the University of Liverpool to study medicine.

Carys took a year out to study for her masters at Barts Cancer Institute in London, then returned to Liverpool to complete her medicine degree.

“I was over the moon, it was like all my dreams had come true, as I knew I had high enough grades to get into medical school,” she said.

She is currently shielding moment because of her heart but has secured a position at a major London hospital as a junior doctor and will start as soon as it is deemed safe for her to do so.



Carys is looking forward to starting work as a junior doctor

She said: “I’ve always been stubborn. I was always determined not to let my heart condition hold me back.

“If someone told me not to do something, I’ve always been like, ‘Well I’m going to do it anyway’.”

She added: “It depends what happens with the coronavirus as to when I can start.

“But as soon as I can, I will. I feel so lucky that I’ve been able to secure such an amazing job and that I can live life to the full.

“I still have some worries about how my condition will affect me in the future which Covid-19 has obviously exacerbated.

“But I try not to think about it. I try and live every day as best I can.

“Right now, I just can’t wait to start my job so I can one day help others in the same way the doctors helped me.”

To find out more about Little Hearts Matter visit: https://www.lhm.org.uk/



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