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Great Ormond Street Hospital patient meets the cast of the new Peter Pan TV drama

Heart transplant patient Amy Willis had a much-needed morale boost when she was special guest at the premiere of a Christmas drama filmed at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).

Heart transplant patient Amy Willis had a much-needed morale boost when she was special guest at the premiere of a Christmas drama filmed at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).

The 14-year-old, whose progress The Independent is following as part of the Give to GOSH appeal, is back in hospital fighting an infection just weeks after being allowed to return to her home near Chester.

But despite her disappointment at being readmitted, the teenager put on a brave face to attend the first screening of Peter And Wendy, an ITV drama starring Paloma Faith. It is a re-telling of J M Barrie’s Peter Pan and the story has parallels with Amy’s life.

The drama follows a 12-year-old girl who is awaiting treatment for a serious heart condition. Her mother, played by actress Laura Fraser, is distraught at the fear of losing her child, and the surgeon, played by Stanley Tucci, assures her he will do everything in his power to make the operation a success.

Amy, who is on the heart transplant waiting list, watched the film with her mother Andrea last night at the British Film Institute on the South Bank, where she met Hunger Games star Tucci. The pair hugged and Amy burst out crying. The actor held her for five minutes, telling her how brave she was. She made him promise he would visit the hospital and that he would not forget her.

She said: “It was really nice to get out of hospital to go out in London. I was feeling a bit fed up being back here so soon after going home, but going to the premiere and meeting the cast definitely took my mind off it. Peter And Wendy was really cool and it was so weird seeing the hospital on a big screen. I’m looking forward to watching it again on Boxing Day with all of my family.”

Great Ormond Street became irrevocably associated with Peter Pan after Barrie gave the hospital the rights to the story in 1929.

Amy was fitted with an artificial heart, known as a Heartware device, in April. The portable pumping unit acts as a bridge, taking the pressure off her heart until an organ becomes available. She can carry the Heartware device in a bag wherever she goes, meaning she can normally live at home instead of staying in hospital.

Amy was healthy until last year when she started feeling ill and doctors diagnosed gastroenteritis. But her condition did not improve and she was admitted to hospital where she suffered massive heart failure. She was transferred to Great Ormond Street by helicopter, where she was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy and told she needed a heart transplant. It is believed a virus may have caused her condition.

Amy and her family are coming to terms with how quickly their lives have changed. She said: “I felt like I was in a movie or a hospital programme like Casualty. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Since being fitted with the Heartware device, Amy has suffered a stroke from which she is recovering. After spending last Christmas in hospital and missing New Year, Easter and Halloween celebrations she was delighted to be allowed home to join her 12-year-old brother in Flintshire two weeks ago.

The news that she had to be readmitted to hospital because of an infection was devastating, but the family hope she will be home for Christmas. Amy feels well but needs to be at the hospital to have antibiotics administered through an IV drip. Her mother is learning how to administer the drugs and they hope to go home this weekend.

Andrea wants to raise awareness to help other parents spot the warning signs. She said: “If someone said, ‘This is where you will be in a year,’ I wouldn’t have believed them.”

Amy’s Heartware device means she can normally still socialise and go to the park — and her friends have been taught what to do if it stops working. After her experience of hospital life, she plans to become a nurse.

Read article in The Independent

December 7, 2015

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