A brave eight-year-old girl has shown the red card to her heart problem after it threatened to ruin her football fun.
Chloe Wheatley’s heart was fitted with a pacemaker earlier this year after she discovered by chance that her heartbeat was abnormally slow.
Doctors told the March youngster that she could no longer play her beloved football or any other contact sports in case it damaged the electrical device.
But after six weeks watching from the sidelines, Chloe is now back on the pitch after March Town Athletic club offered to fund a pacemaker guard from America.
Chloe, who attends March’s Burrowmoor Primary School, was born with heart block, but the life-threatening condition was only discovered when she went to see a doctor about a stomach upset in April.
Mum Rachel Wheatley said: “The doctor was checking her over and found her heartbeat was really slow.
“He sent us to A&E at Peterborough and they said her heart rate was 40 beats per minute when most children her age should be around 80-100 beats per minute.”
Doctors said the rate was so low they would have expected some symptoms, such as dizziness or shortness of breath, but Chloe had none.
She was referred to the Glenfields heart specialist hospital in Leicester, where she underwent tests in June. She was warned that she would need a pacemaker fitted before she was a teenager, and was sent home wearing a 24-hour heart rate monitor.
But a couple of weeks later the family received a letter saying her heart rate dropped so low at night, that she would need a pacemaker fitted as soon as possible.
She went on to a waiting list and had one fitted during an operation in September.
Mrs Wheatley said: “Chloe was told that as football is a contact sport she would no longer be able to play. She was absolutely gutted.
“She amazed everyone with her happy-go-lucky attitude with regards to the pacemaker being fitted and even two days after the operation Chloe was at the Braza playing field, supposed to be sitting watching, but she was standing with the coaches trying so hard not to get involved.”
In a bid to see if anything could help Chloe, Mrs Wheatley searched the Internet and discovered a pacemaker guard from America that could be worn so that she could carry on playing football.
The guard, which is currently unavailable in the UK, is a T-shirt featuring a pocket on the inside where a metal disk can be inserted to protect the pacemaker, and costs £155.
Mrs Wheatley posted a message on Facebook saying what she had found, and Chloe’s club March Town Athletic, replied immediately saying it would fund the guard.
“I sobbed when I read the message,” she said. “It’s not that we couldn’t afford it, it was just such a lovely thing for them to do and they knew how much it would mean to Chloe.”
Chloe enjoyed her first match back with the under 9s boys’ team last week.
She trains every Friday evening with the club at the Neale Wade Academy, and has a match every Saturday. Her older sister Olivia, 10, also plays for the club in the under 11s girls’ team.
Mark Jones, chairman of March Town Athletic Football Club, said: “Everyone at the club is so proud of Chloe’s recent bravery. We wanted to support her in any way possible to continue with her development and enjoying football with her friends and family.
“Chloe’s sister Olivia is also a keen footballer and both mum and dad are active volunteers at the club, so we felt it was the least we could do.”