LITTLE Kaci Phillips was just three weeks old when she was diagnosed with a life-threatening condition that only SIX other babies have had in the UK over the past decade.
But after undergoing emergency open-heart surgery just hours after being diagnosed, her life was saved by doctors at Southampton’s world-renowned children’s heart unit.
Now Kaci’s grateful mum is aiming to pay them back – by jumping out of a plane to raise vital funds for the unit that saved her baby.
It is the same unit that the Daily Echo’s Have a Heart campaign helped to save from the axe, after more than 250,000 people signed a petition to save it as health bosses looked to cut the UK’s 11 children’s heart units down to just seven.
With her tiny hands and feet constantly blue and her inability to feed during the first weeks of her life, the newborn from Millbrook weighed just a little over 5lb when she was born.
And without the expertise of the Southampton team and their drive to save even the most seriously ill babies, the youngster, who is now 18 months old, might never have made it.
Just eight days after her lifesaving operation, Kaci was back at home with her relieved family.
Kelly, 31, said: “I could tell that something was wrong with her when she was born, she constantly had blue hands and feet and she just wouldn’t feed, so I was really worried that it was something serious.
“But it was such a shock to the system when we were told her diagnosis. The whole process was a whirlwind as we only had a matter of hours to let in all sink in.
“The unit has done so much for us so I wanted to repay the favour and help other families like mine, who have to go through similar traumas.”
But Kelly isn’t facing the skydive alone.
She will be joined by her friend Kellie Powell, whose daughter Elodie-Rose is also being treated by the heart unit.
The 11-month-old was born with a hole in her heart and may need surgery to fix it, requiring frequent trips to the Ocean Ward.
Kellie, 29, from Maybush, added: “I’m a bit wobbly with heights but what we will go through is nothing compared to what youngsters like Kaci are forced to go through when they are faced with surgery at such a young age.
“The staff on the unit are just brilliant.
They are there whenever I need them, so this is our way of saying thank you.”
Their 15,000ft skydive will take place at Salisbury on April 28 but they will be organising a number of fundraising events, such as a car wash, beforehand to ensure they reach their £2,000 target.
To make a donation visit justgiving.