A DONCASTER dad suffered a double blow after being told he could need a heart transplant - just weeks after discovering his son had a serious heart defect.
Simon Rusling, aged 31, and his three-year-old son Frasier are now battling their illnesses together.
And the family are campaigning to keep open the threatened children’s heart unit at Leeds - which Simon says saved Frasier’s life.
Simon and wife Anita were delighted when she gave birth to Frasier at the Doncaster Royal Infirmary in January 2008.
But they then found themselves facing a parents’ nightmare when a heart expert from the unit in Leeds, who was by chance visiting Doncaster, picked up Frasier’s condition.
Frasier was found to have pulmonary atresia - a form of congenital heart disease in which the pulmonary valve does not form properly.
He was rushed straight to Leeds, where he underwent surgery for the first time aged two weeks to have a tube put into his chest to link his lungs and his heart to improve the oxygen supply.
Frasier went back in October 2009 for a second operation to fit a bigger tube - but by then the family had suffered a second blow.
Simon had lost three-and-a-half stone in weight and when doctors examined him they diagnosed heart failure.
He was sent to Leeds General Infirmary for treatment, but the complex nature of the condition meant he had to have a complicated operation in Newcastle.
Simon has now been warned he will probably need a heart transplant.
He said: “It has been a terrible few years. I’m 31 years old but I can’t kick a football with Frasier. It has been a really tough time.
“But when I was in hospital I was able to pop round the corner to see Frasier, who was in Leeds too.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the staff on ward 10, where Frasier was treated. I can’t understand why they would consider closing the children’s heart surgery department.”
Frasier is expected to need another operation when he is eight and may also need a transplant eventually.
Simon says he cannot be certain if Frasier would have survived if he had not been treated in Leeds.
He said: “It felt like a crazy time when we find out about Frasier’s condition. They prepared us for the worst. Doctors on ward 10 in Leeds saved his life.
“He is three now and we take every day as it comes and the doctors in Leeds are always there for us.
“I don’t know what would have happened it he had had to go to Newcastle. But it knocked us for six.
“One minute your son is being born, the next you are walking into the heart ward. But they do a brilliant job.”
Simon, who lives near Norton, is still waiting for more surgery himself. He had arteries connected to the wrong points in the heart and now awaits an operation to replace a valve that may last him five years - but is expecting to need a heart transplant.
Doncaster residents are being invited to show their support for the SOS Save Our Surgery campaign at a public meeting in Doncaster on Saturday.
The Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, the charity behind the campaign to fight plans to close Yorkshire’s children’s heart surgery unit, has organised a meeting at The Earl Of Doncaster, at 11am with speakers including surgeons and parents of current and former patients.