Costessey girl's brave fight for life

Kate ScotterAt 20 weeks pregnant, Kerry Huggins discovered her unborn baby daughter had a heart defect and complications in her birth meant both of their lives were at risk.Kate Scotter

At 20 weeks pregnant, Kerry Huggins discovered her unborn baby daughter had a heart defect and complications in her birth meant both of their lives were at risk.

Fortunately both mum and baby survived, but now, at just 15 months old, Ella Futter is set undergo the second heart operation of her young life.

The early years of Ella's life have seen her in and out of hospital.

When she was born, both mum and baby had to go into intensive care after Ms Huggins, of Glenda Close, Costessey, had to have an emergency caesarean.

She was diagnosed with septicaemia and medics had to treat her immediately before the blood poisoning affected her unborn child.

Having survived the complicated birth, Ella then had to have her first operation on her heart when she was three months old.

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She was born with just three chambers in her heart, which saw too much blood being pumped to her lungs.

A shunt has been put into heart, offering a temporary solution, until she is older and can undergo a larger operation.

She will go back to hospital next month for more surgery.

Ms Huggins, 34, who lives with her partner Stephen Futter, said: 'When I had my 20-week scan, they found out she had only three chambers in her heart - we didn't know if she was going to make it.

'I was devastated; I just thought the worst. Every day, I thought something bad was going to happen. I thought she was going to die before I even had her.'

Ella was born at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and underwent shunt surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

The youngster will go back to the London children's hospital on July 5 to have the shunt replaced as she has out-grown it.

Ms Huggins, who also has a 16-year-old son Jordan and worked in banking before she went on maternity leave, said: 'The shunt could fail at any time. Every day now, I think 'is she okay?' and I've not gone back to work yet because I worry that something will go wrong when I'm not there.

'I'm with her 24 hours a day and have been ever since she was born. I do worry about her even though I know she is well looked after by the doctors and she has lots of check ups.'

At just 16lb and eight ounces, Ella is too small to have a big operation on her heart, but it is hoped she will be able to undergo the necessary surgery at the beginning of next year.

Meanwhile, her parents, Ms Huggins and 29-year-old Mr Futter, who works in the air conditioning industry, are making the most of everyday they have with their baby girl.

'She is a lot better than what she thought she was going to be. Her fingernails and toes can be blue. She's a very cuddly little girl and very loving,' added Ms Huggins.

'She's active but she's not walking yet. The doctors said she might be a little slow at doing things than other one year olds.'

A family fun day will be held tomorrow at the West Earlham community centre from 10am to 2pm in aid of the Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity.

The event, organised by Mr Futter's mum, will include refreshments, a bouncy castle, games, a raffle and tombola.

Ms Huggins added: 'If it wasn't for Great Ormond Street, then Ella wouldn't be here. We are so grateful for the doctors there who have been looking after her.'

To donate money to the Great Ormond Street Hospital, go to

Do you have a heart warming story about a brave child? Call reporter Kate Scotter on 01603 772326 or email