23 January 2023

London marathon for children’s heart unit

Imagine starting your journey as a new family only to discover abnormalities during your pregnancy scan. That’s what happened to Robbie and Josie Hambly, leading to multiple surgeries on their baby for a heart defect. What’s more, it all happened over 180 miles from their home…

“Josie and I live in Roche, Cornwall, with our three sons, Seb, 12, Morley, 8, and Seth, 6.

In 2010 we discovered we were pregnant with our first child, Seb. We were thrilled!

However, at the 12-week scan, he was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, and they found abnormalities in the fluid on the back of his neck.

We had multiple visits and scans at our local hospital to see how things were progressing. At the same time, we also visited Bristol Hospital as it had a specialist neonatal intensive care unit which Seb would need as soon as he was born.

There were still so many unknowns, then as we approached the date for Josie to be induced, we were told there was no room in the neonatal unit in Bristol so we would have to look elsewhere.


Our hearts sank. On top of everything else, we now had to find a new hospital to give birth in. This caused so much additional worry and anxiety, especially being a young couple about to have our first child.

Fortunately, the E1 ocean ward at Southampton Children’s Hospital, which specialised in paediatric cardiology, welcomed us. This is something we are very thankful for to this day!

Seb was born on 20 October via an unplanned natural birth with the aid of forceps at Princess Anne maternity hospital, Southampton.

He was then rushed to the E1 ocean ward to closely monitor his heart.

Seb was born with left-sided hypoplastic heart condition which affects normal blood flow through the heart, coarctation of the aorta where a part of his aorta was narrower than usual. More concerningly, he had one large atrial septal defect (ASD) and multiple ventricular septal defects (VSD) which are holes in the heart.

Plans were made, and he was operated on when he was just six days old for the coarctation repair and closure of the large ASD.

As a family, we spent several weeks on the ward throughout his recovery. It seems a lifetime ago now, but we are so thankful to the team who looked after him.

Over the years, Seb has had numerous operations for other repair work, and we still visit the hospital for outpatient clinics to monitor him as he grows.

Our confidence in the staff is second to none, and while we live nearly 200 miles away from the hospital, we wouldn’t want to go anywhere else as the care is simply exceptional.

His brother Seth was also diagnosed with a heart defect, which we wouldn’t have known about if it wasn’t for all the tests and screening since the birth of Seb. We owe a great deal of thanks to the staff at the hospital for all that they have done for us.

Running the London marathon

In 2022, I put my name on the ballot to get a place at the London Marathon.

Never in a million years did I think I would get in on the first try!

I’m 39, and I still enjoy running whenever I can. While I have completed a half marathon before, the thought of doubling that distance is still quite daunting for me.

Being successful with the ballot place has really given me the enthusiasm to train and prepare for the race.

All of my family and friends are behind me as we thank the NHS for the care shown to Seb and Seth.”

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