A boy born with half a heart is making up for lost time – thanks to his footballing hero.
Wilfie Horsfall, four, has just finished his first term at Hawes Side Primary after spending large parts of his young life in hospital undergoing surgery.
He was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome – but with the support of Fleetwood Town footballer Bobby Grant he has bounced back to health to enjoy school with his classmates.
Grant, 27, who himself was found to have three holes in his heart when he was 16, visited Wilfie at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool as the youngster recovered from his third heart operation this summer.
And Wilfie’s dad Michael – the manager of Town’s Poolfoot Farm training base in Thornton – has credited the kind-hearted footballer for giving Wilfie a real boost.
He said: “The way Bobby was with Wilfie gave him a real push to get better and made him look forward to each day.
“Bobby would come off his own back. It was that contact that helped Wilfie.
“It was about Bobby as a person rather than creating headlines for Fleetwood Town football club. He is just a great guy.”
Bobby, who has regular check-ups for his own condition, said: “I’m over the moon for Wilfie and his family.
“I was sent pictures of the first day he went to school in his uniform.
“Even though he is not part of my family I’ve said to his parents I will always be there and support him when he needs supporting.
“He’s like a little best mate to me.
“It was his third open heart surgery and to be as lively as he is and back at school...I’m so proud of him.”
Wilfie, who was the innkeeper in the recent school nativity, underwent his first operation at just 10 days old.
He had a second after six months and then a third in August this year ahead of starting at Hawes Side Primary. He was in hospital for three weeks.
Wilfie, who has a big brother, nine-year-old Kian, turns five on January 3.
Michael, 41, a well-known former non-league footballer who was part of Kirkham and Wesham’s FA Vase winning squad in 2008, said: “Because I’m at Poolfoot the kids come and see me and we went to watch Fleetwood one day.
“Wilfie was only three at the time and he really latched onto Bobby for some reason on the pitch.
“It turned out Bobby had a heart defect that had been picked up when he was at Accrington Stanley and I told him about Wilfie.
“Once the situation unravelled with Wilfie, Bobby was just keen to go and see him and say hello and they created a friendship from it.”
And Michael and Wilfie’s mum Catherine Peters, 41, say they are looking forward to the future.
He said: “We knew from the day we had the 20 week scan that there was something wrong.
“Wilfie is as good as he can be, obviously he will still have issues relating to his health and his ability to exercise but in terms of his improvement and quality life it will be a huge boost having that final op.
“He is doing really well, he joined Hawes Side a little bit late but he has integrated well – he is causing all kinds of trouble!”
Hypoplastic left heart syndrome?
Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) is a birth defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart.
As the baby develops during pregnancy, the left side of the heart does not form correctly. Hypoplastic left heart syndrome is one type of congenital heart defect.
Hypoplastic left heart syndrome affects a number of structures on the left side of the heart that do not fully develop, for example:
The left ventricle is underdeveloped and too small. The mitral valves is not formed or is very small. The aortic valve is not formed or is very small.
The causes of heart defects such as hypoplastic left heart syndrome among most babies are unknown.
Some babies have heart defects because of changes in their genes or chromosomes.