London celebrations

Couple raise money for Evelina London Hospital and Ronald McDonald House after their newborn son needed heart surgery

An engaged couple have received the shocking news that their baby will need life-saving heart surgery within two weeks of being born.

Leah Edwards had been carrying her son for 20 weeks when a routine scan revealed a heart abnormality.

Leah with her partner Connor and her warrior son Phoenix. Photo: Lea Edwards

She then went with fiancé Connor Pearson, 25, for another appointment at Evelina London Hospital where the tot was diagnosed with a rare disease.

The 23-year-old, from Lower Road, Maidstone, said: ‘We were told he would need life-saving surgery in the first weeks of his life.

At 8:16 p.m. on January 19, baby Phoenix was born, but celebrations for the new family were cut short as just 20 minutes later he was taken to the newborn intensive care unit where he spent two days before being transferred to Sky Cardiac Ward.

For the next two weeks they could only visit him individually due to Covid restrictions.

Phoenix had surgery on February 1 where they were able to be together as a family for the first time.

“We were told he would need life-saving surgery in the first weeks of his life”

It lasted five hours and was a hit, meaning the couple were able to see their baby boy hours later.

Leah said: “Although we have seen pictures, no one can prepare you for the reality of seeing your baby hooked up to multiple machines and her body full of wires and tubes.

“The nurses took their time explaining what everything was doing and once we realized the purpose of each individual thing it all seemed less scary.

“They explained that Phoenix spent a lot of time on the bypass machine because her body took a huge hit after the surgery.

“But every day we saw small improvements – it gave us hope.”

Little Phoenix is ​​recovering from his operation.  Photo: Lea Edwards
Little Phoenix is ​​recovering from his operation. Photo: Lea Edwards
Baby Phoenix showing off his new scar.  Photo: Leah Edwards (57215185)
Baby Phoenix showing off his new scar. Photo: Leah Edwards (57215185)

The baby spent 10 days in pediatric intensive care (PICU) before returning to Sky service for recovery. Then on February 21, Leah was able to take him home.

She said: “Every day is a blessing and he showed us the definition of a warrior.

“We know he will need more surgeries in the future as his heart grows, but for now we are enjoying spending time together as a family and getting to know our little fighter.”

Leah added: “His name sounds like the mythical bird that rises from the ashes to experience another cycle of life.

“That’s how we know Phoenix will be successful in future surgeries, each one only making him stronger.”

Connor holding his baby boy in his arms.  Photo: Lea Edwards
Connor holding his baby boy in his arms. Photo: Lea Edwards

The couple are now hosting a charity event on August 20, to be held at the Civil Service Sports and Social Club in Maidstone, with the intention of splitting the money raised between Ronald McDonald House and Evelina Children’s Hospital.

The teaching assistant said: “There are no words that can explain how grateful we are to have our little Pheonix with us today and all thanks to Evelina London where he spent the first six weeks of his life and to their amazing team of medical staff.

“While Pheonix was in the hospital, my partner and I were no more than a 10 minute walk from Ronald McDonald House.

“It became our home away from home for six weeks. The facilities they have are endless and if they couldn’t provide something they would always point us in the right direction.

“At our event we will have stalls, a local ice cream and burger van, a raffle with prizes from companies such as Maidstone United and The Swan restaurant in West Malling. We will organize a charity football match and a DJ and a band will play.

Leah and Connor want to split the money raised between Evelina London and Ronald McDonald House.  Photo: Lea Edwards
Leah and Connor want to split the money raised between Evelina London and Ronald McDonald House. Photo: Lea Edwards

So far they have raised over £10,000, doubling their goal of £5,000 which has been extended to £15,000.

Donations can be made on their JustGiving page here:

If anyone wants to get involved contact Leah at [email protected]