What a difference eight months has made to 12-year-old Modou Saidy.

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Before Easter he was becoming weaker each day and his heart condition had reached the stage where he was too ill to go to school and became breathless at the slightest exertion.

Now, thanks to the generosity of readers, who funded an air trip from the Gambia to Egypt for a lifesaving operation, he is full of energy, enjoying cycling and doing extra Saturday sessions at school to catch up.

Former Norfolk police officer Phil Feller launched the appeal to save the life of the son of a volunteer at the school for blind children he and his wife Joan run in the state’s capital Banjul.

Readers rallied to the cause, donating £4,500 in a matter of days, and the operation to replace a faulty heart valve - carried out free by world-renowned heart surgeon Sir Magdi Yacoub - went ahead in Aswan over Easter; the charity The Chain of Hope funded his hospital stay.

Mr Feller, 65, of Humber Close, Caister, has just returned from a three-week trip to the Gambia with his wife during which time Modou travelled to a hospital in neighbouring Senegal for a series of scans and tests.

The results were checked by doctors at a medical centre in the Gambia and their verdict was that Modou is making excellent progress.

Mr Feller, who still works in an administrative role at Great Yarmouth police station, said: “The future for him now looks great although he will be on antibiotics all his life in case he gets an infection. He takes tablets at the moment but doctors are considering whether it is better for him to have a monthly jab.”

The remaining money from the appeal in Archant newspapers paid the £150 cost of Modou’s trip to Dakar in Senegal.

During their stay the Fellers caught up with chores and administrative tasks at their school run by the charity Friends of Visually Impaired Children in the Gambia.

They also hosted a visit by a blind Gambian MP who opened a new dining hall at the school paid for by their fund-raising.

Mr Feller said: “A former pupil at the school who came to the ceremony is taking his final papers for his law degree at the Gambian University. He informed me that when he becomes a lawyer he will fight for the injustices of the disabled. He would not stop shaking my hand and thanking me for giving him the opportunity.”

Mrs Feller does regular boot fairs to help raise the £8,500 annual running costs of the school which provides an education for nearly 50 children.

To help with fundraising call the Fellers on 01493-721506, email joanfeller@btinternet.com or visit the website http://fgvi.org.uk/

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