Brackley teen runner shows heart

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An 18-year-old from Brackley, who was fitted with a pacemaker two years ago, will take on the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) Blenheim Palace 10K run in aid of life saving research.

Joe Sharpe was born with a congenital heart condition called partial anomalous pulmonary venous connection (PAPVC) and a hole in his heart.

Joe will be among 5,000 runners expected to take part in this year’s BHF Blenheim Palace Half Marathon, 10K or Family Fun Run.

The annual event, which raised £250,000 last year, will take place on Sunday, September 29 at Blenheim Palace.

Joe said: “I’m really looking forward to taking part and helping raise funds that will fund research that can benefit people like me and my family.”

As a young child, Joe would struggle to run or participate in sport, as he would get out of breath easily. At age eight, he underwent open heart surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Following the operation, Joe’s health improved, and he was able to take part in sports and found a love of playing football.

But in 2015, Joe was diagnosed with bradycardia, a condition that meant his heart was beating slower than the normal heart rate. He was monitored but as he seemed fit and well, no treatment was necessary.

Then, in 2016, Joe fell unwell whilst playing volleyball during a PE lesson at school.

Joe said: “I had horrific stabbing pains in my chest. It was the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. I was in and out of consciousness and I have a vague memory of being wheeled out of school by paramedics.”

Following further tests, Joe was again transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital where he was told he would need a pacemaker. The small device was fitted in Joe’s chest.

Joe said: “I was in shock, as I was only 16 years old at the time. I’d always assumed pacemakers were for older people.”

The surgery went well, but it took a while for Joe to get used to having a pacemaker.

Joe said: “It didn’t change my life too much, but I certainly had to adapt.

“I was lucky as I had great care from the hospital. They even put me in touch with a support counsellor to help me deal with the psychological effect it had on me.”

After being cleared by his medical team Joe is now able to play football again.

He is now gearing up for the 10K run – an event he was inspired to take part in after finding out that it will raise money for vital research into heart and circulatory conditions.

Joe added: “I’ve started training and am up to about 4K now.”

Leanne Postlethwaite, event organiser at the BHF, said: “We want to say a massive thank you to Joe for signing up to the event and taking the steps to help us beat heartbreak forever.”