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Liesl may only have half a working heart, but she hasn’t let that stop her. In fact, it inspired her to help others like her.

When Liesl’s mum attended a routine check 20 weeks into her pregnancy, the doctors knew there was something wrong. The scan showed a problem with the left side of Liesl’s heart, and the doctors were concerned that Liesl’s heart would not be able to pump blood to the rest of her body – a congenital heart defect also known as hypo plastic left heart syndrome.

Despite the worrying news, Liesl’s family had options. At just two days old, and then again at three years old, Liesl had a series of surgeries to her heart to correct its blood flow, called the Fontan procedure. At the time, this was an uncommon, experimental procedure, but it helped Liesl get through early childhood despite her body not receiving oxygen-rich blood as normal.

I had such poor circulation and was always cyanotic, I couldn’t even walk to the end of the street.”

Despite Liesl’s challenges she remains thankful.

“The Fontan procedure isn’t available to all children. Some get to an age and find out the doctors can’t help them further. It’s just the case of your condition, if they can help you or not.”

Now 23, Liesl has learned to make the most of life with her hidden disability and its complications, although she is still limited in how active she can be. She has regular follow-up visits with her cardiologist to monitor her progress, but her condition also contributes to liver problems. The need for a liver transplant is yet another challenge she faces.

However, it was Liesl’s experience with frequent hospital visits that inspired her career in healthcare to help people. After achieving a first class honours in Operating Department Practice, Liesl is now qualified as a theatre practitioner, where she works in the operating theatre alongside surgeons, anaesthetists and other healthcare professionals, with the ambition to one day become a Surgical Care Practitioner.

It’s funny. I can read my medical notes and the various procedures I’ve had, and I know what it all means. I know what I’ve had to have, how long it takes and what I need to do to get through it.”

Her new career finds her standing for long hours each day, on shift, so Liesl has to push herself to her physical limits. But the joy and fascination she finds in her work makes it all worthwhile. And it gives her a new appreciation for medical research.

“Procedures for congenital heart disease have changed since I was small. Doctors can do several different operations for people with the same problem, so it’s vital to research new ways of surgery."

By understanding the condition more, we can shape the future.”

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