Braveheart Amanda takes on a year of challenges

Amanda Bell is embarking on a year of fundraising to collect �5,000 for the Children's Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital-she had open heart surgery herself 18 months ago and she is seen at the Morpeth Herald office with friends Nick Logan (right) and Jamie Pattison, who are doing the Three Peaks Challenge.
Amanda Bell is embarking on a year of fundraising to collect �5,000 for the Children's Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital-she had open heart surgery herself 18 months ago and she is seen at the Morpeth Herald office with friends Nick Logan (right) and Jamie Pattison, who are doing the Three Peaks Challenge.

A BRAVE heart surgery survivor is pushing herself to the limit in a bid to raise thousands of pounds for poorly children.

It is less than two years since Amanda Bell underwent open heart surgery to fix a hole in her heart the size of a 10p piece.

But instead of taking her recovery easy, the adventurous 20-year-old is planning a year of fund-raising challenges, including taking on the Great North Run, to collect at least £5,000 for the Children’s Heart Unit Fund at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital.

“I was in the adults’ ward for my operation and the hospital was really good, but the reason why I have chosen to do this for the children’s unit is because if they had more funding when I was younger they may have found what was wrong with me earlier and my surgery wouldn’t have been as bad,” she said.

“Hopefully, this will help other people like me.”

Amanda grew up thinking she had a severe case of asthma, but her heart palpitations started to become more frequent and after two years of investigations the hole in her heart was confirmed.

“I was in shock when I was told. I just didn’t expect that at all, this is something that happens to other people, not to you,” she said.

“Everyone was really supportive because I was so upset about it. I thought my life was going to change forever. I had grown up thinking that I had really bad asthma and all of a sudden it turned into having to have major heart surgery.

“It was very scary. There was one time when I was 10 beats per minute from a heart attack when I was 18 years old.

“Just before my operation, I was getting really weak. Anything could have happened, which is why they had to do the operation as quickly as they could.”

The surgery was carried out in May 2010.

It went well and after a five-day stay in hospital Amanda could return to her Morpeth home in Alexandra Road, Middle Greens.

Doctors advised her to take it easy, but after just seven weeks off work as a Trainee Assistant Manager of the Waterford Lodge, she begged to return.

She was given shorter shifts and lighter duties as she was limited as to what she could do with broken ribs from the operation, but eventually she managed a full return.

And while she still has to go to hospital for regular blood tests, she is raring to lead as active a life as possible.

She said: “I feel so much better now and I have got a lot more energy.”

So much so in fact that along with her friend Nick Logan and sister Gillian Bell, Amanda has signed up to complete the Great North Run in September, with her fund-raising goal firmly in her sights.

“I have started training already, but my legs feel as though they’re about to drop off,” she said.

“I have never done the run before, but I thought it would be the best way of raising money because it is going to challenge me a lot – I haven’t run at all for five years.

“I am going to try to run the majority of it, but at the moment I’m doing short runs, which will hopefully get bigger and bigger.”

Amanda is also toying with the idea of a parachute jump, if she can get her doctors to agree. Other fund-raising ideas include dinners, being sponsored to give up her favourite things and a group charity wax with her friends.

Her 21st birthday on August 9 will be another chance to make money for the cause and she is planning a joint fund-raising party with her friend Chloe Young, packed with raffles and games.

However, the first event on the list is the Three Peaks Challenge, where participants try to conquer the three highest mountains in Wales, England and Scotland within 24 hours.

Amanda herself has been banned from trying it under doctors’ orders, but her pals Nick Logan and Jamie Pattison, who she knows from her days at King Edward VI School, have volunteered to have a go.

They will set out for Snowdon in the early hours of Monday morning, with Amanda acting as driver, before moving on to Scafell Pike and finally Ben Nevis.

The climbers are expecting snow on the peaks, but are adamant they will complete the challenge, even if it has to be postponed for a while.

Nick said: “Jamie and I volunteered for this challenge. Amanda has got lots of things she wants to do to raise money and we thought this would be a good way to start.

“I have done lots of this kind of stuff before and I really enjoy it so why not?

“Amanda can’t do the Three Peaks herself right now so we can do it and she can organise it for us.

“We don’t think the snow will be a problem, but if it is still too bad the worst thing that will happen is we’ll have to put it off for two or three weeks.”

Amanda said: “It is a lot harder to do the challenge at this time of year, but people who know Nick and Jamie know it would be easy for them to climb. This will make it more of a challenge.”

She added: “Everyone is being so supportive. I have got lots of people trying to help me with ideas to raise the money, it’s just a case of organising them now.”

Anyone wishing to donate to Amanda’s fund-raising campaign can visit www.justgiving.com/AmandaBell2012 or text CHUF91, plus an amount, to 70070, to donate a minimum of £1.