Sarah and Sonya's story

Your bags will help us fund more life-saving research like that undertaken by Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan. Her research has helped Sarah Howell, who was born with a heart condition.

I remember being in hospital and going down to surgery in my gown, with my dolly in my arms. I remember when my mum had to leave me – it hit me then.

Sarah has never known life without a heart condition. She was born with Tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital disease involving complications such as a hole in the heart and a faulty valve. Her condition has meant Sarah has had to undergo multiple surgeries from just three years old, into her early 20s.

When Sarah was introduced to BHF researcher Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, she never expected to become part of something special. 

Sarah and Sonya work as a team

Aged 26, Sarah’s heart condition led her to Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan. Sonya is a doctor at Royal Brompton Hospital and Imperial College London and also carries out research to help adults, like Sarah, born with congenital heart conditions.

Sarah says, “When I went to university, I was able to work hard, play hard and go out with my friends, so it was a surprise when the doctors said I’d need more surgery in the future.

“But over time, I started getting breathless. The doctors told me it was my heart and that I needed a valve replacement. That’s when I met Sonya. She did an MRI scan of my heart, to try and find out when the best time was for me to have the surgery.”

“When I had my valve replacement, Sonya was at my bedside.”

“Now a few years on, I really enjoy being part of Sonya’s research. Anything I can do, whether it’s helping Sonya or working with the BHF, I will always find the time to do it.”

Since her valve replacement, Sarah has become actively involved in Sonya’s research.

Sonya’s congenital heart research

Dr Babu-Narayan is assessing the risk of cardiac arrest in congenital heart patients, and also trying to identify the optimum time for congenital patients to undergo surgery.

Sarah says, “To look at me, you wouldn’t know anything was wrong. But repeated heart surgery can scar a heart. It could put me at risk of cardiac arrest. That’s why Sonya’s research really matters.

“Sonya’s discoveries mean that if I’m at risk of a cardiac arrest, I will know.

One day it could save my life. Without this research, I definitely wouldn’t have the quality of life I do. I don’t think I’d even be here.”

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