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Teen who collapsed playing soccer kicking again after heart transplant

Kayleigh Llewellyn, 15, seemed “fit and healthy” during a youth league game before she blacked out and was taken to hospital with breathing difficulties.

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Kayleigh Llewellyn in her football gear before she had the transplant operation. (Shaun Sidney via SWNS)

By Douglas Whitbread via SWNS

A teenage girl left fighting for her life after collapsing on a soccer field has won a gold medal in the sport - three years after a heart transplant.

Kayleigh Llewellyn, 15, seemed “fit and healthy” during a youth league game before she blacked out and was taken to hospital with breathing difficulties in 2019.

Medics revealed her heart was only functioning at eight per cent capacity - and she would need risky transplant surgery to save her life.

The sporty teen spent six weeks in intensive care before surgeons found a donor organ, and she had to learn to walk again due to her excessive muscle wastage.

And when she finally returned home in early 2020, she was then forced to self-isolate with her family for a year and a half due to COVID-19.

Kayleigh at a transplant awards gala. (Shaun Sidney via SWNS)

But last weekend, Kayleigh represented the hospital that saved her at the British Transplant Games - and won gold with her team to the delight of her parents.

Proud dad Shaun Sindey, 53, said: “When she won the gold medal on that day, me and her mom had to turn away, we were full of tears.

"She was on cloud nine, and she dedicated it to her donor. She said: ‘This is for Sinead. It’s all for her.’ She is amazing.”

Shaun said Kayleigh hoped to play with her youth team side again when her body would allow it - after being inspired by England women's Euro victory last weekend.

He added: “Jill Scott, who plays for England, is her hero, and she prefers girl’s soccer to men’s soccer, so her aim would be to get back into it.”

Timber Mill worker Shaun, from Seaham, County Durham, UK, explained that 12-year-old Kayleigh was playing for her local side, NSG Panthers, when she suddenly collapsed.

He said: “She seemed fit and healthy. She played in her league soccer team and for her school team, but in October 2019, she didn’t feel very well. She collapsed on the pitch."

“So they took her off and we brought her home, and she was saying she was having trouble breathing, so we gave her an inhaler."

“When she got up the next morning, she said she couldn’t breath, and so we took her to hospital."

Doctors who later examined Kayleigh first thought their machines were broken after they showed her heart was beating at 208 times a minute - twice the expected rate.

Kayleigh after her op. (Shaun Sidney via SWNS)

But following further tests, they rushed her to Newcastle Freeman Hospital, where Shaun and his wife Sonia were told Kayleigh had a slim chance of survival.

He said: “She was taken to the Freeman hospital in Newcastle on blue lights.

“They came back and said Kayleigh’s heart was only working at eight percent, and the only way to save her was with a heart transplant.

“She was transferred onto the children’s heart transplant unit. She was there for ten weeks. She had a valve pump fitted.”

Five weeks later, in November 2019, her parents were left “broken-hearted” after surgeons sourced a heart for Kayleigh, only to find it was usable

Shaun said: “She was offered a heart and went for surgery, but by the time it got to her, she couldn’t use it. We were broken-hearted

Kayleigh learning to walk again after spending ten weeks in bed.
(Shaun Sidney via SWNS)

“Kayleigh was asleep in a coma, and we decided to leave her asleep. We had promised her when she came round she would have a new heart.

“She was on life support for ten days until she was offered a second heart.”

Shaun said following the successful surgery on November 24, 2019, frail Kayleigh lost all her fitness and had to learn to walk and eat again.

When she finally managed to make it home, in January 2020, Kayleigh had to isolate with her family for a year and a half as she was classed as immunocompromised.

Shaun said: “We all had to isolate with Kayleigh for a year and a half – her whole family. She was just getting work from school. We got her an exercise bike in the house.”

Kayleigh had gone back to her old youth team when she had the first opportunity but had found the intense exercise too hard on her body.

However, earlier this year, she was invited to compete in the British Transplant Games against other kids with donor organs - with the help of the Children’s Heart Unit Foundation (CHUF).

The four-day event comprised various different sports, and right-back defender Kayleigh, representing Newcastle Freeman Hospital, won gold in the soccer tournament.

Kayleigh in her footie gear after her transplant operation. (Shaun Sidney via SWNS)

Shaun explained: “There were seven to eight games, ten minutes each side. She was competing against other people from hospitals in Britain and Ireland.

“She beat an Irish team 3-1 in the final. She played all the games.”

Shaun said Kayleigh wants to do further fundraising after dedicating her win to her donor, Sinead Bree, 19, and has plans to do a sponsored parachute jump in the future.

And he urged others to consider signing up to become an organ donors after his daughter was blessed with a “second chance” following her successful operation.

Visit here to register.

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