Woody shows his love for BHF valentine's campaign

11 February 2019        

Category: Fundraising

A couple from Scotland will share an extra special Valentine’s this year, as they mark the first birthday of their baby boy, who was born with a hole in his heart.

The Zollinger family sitting on a park bench

Woody Zollinger turns one  this week, having undergone open heart surgery when he was just six months old for a congenital heart condition, diagnosed at his mum’s 20 week scan. Now his parents Helen and Stewart, from East Lothian, are lending their support to the British Heart Foundation’s Love Notes campaign to help raise funds for life saving research into conditions such as Woody’s.

Helen says: “When were given the diagnosis, it was really frightening. We were just shell shocked for a while and both really upset. It was a terrifying prospect but what we didn’t know at the time was just how common it was.”

Woody’s operation took place at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow in August 2018.

"The day of the operation was very, very scary day as you can imagine,” Helen continues. ”We knew it was open heart surgery and we understood what that meant. It was frightening, invasive stuff but we also knew that it was something we had to do for Woody to have a normal life or as close to a normal life as possible.”

Woody has gone on to make a full recovery and earlier this week, Woody and his parents made a special visit to their local BHF shop in Musselburgh to give their backing to the Love Notes campaign. The nation’s heart charity is urging local residents to pen a message of love to their nearest and dearest, by purchasing one of its Love Notes in time for Valentine’s Day.

Helen and Stewart Zollinger with Woody outside BHF shop in Musselburgh

From a poem to a simple emoji, the public can head into any BHF shop and pick up a love note for just £1 (small) or £2 (large) before writing a heartfelt note to a loved one. The messages will then be displayed in the store window until the 15th February.  All money raised from the sales of Love Notes will go towards the our vital research.

Helen added: “You think of a time before the developments we have today and you wonder what would have become of Woody? Here we are about to celebrate his first birthday. It’s wonderful and we are just so thankful.”

Helen is now working with BHF Scotland looking to set up a community group for those in similar situations.

James Cant, Director of BHF Scotland said: “Having the support of families like Woody’s is so important to us. He’s an inspirational little boy and after what must have been an extremely frightening time, it’s wonderful to see him looking so happy and we are delighted to wish him a very happy first birthday.

“Each month in Scotland around 25 babies are diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. When the BHF was founded in 1961, around eight out of ten babies born with a complex congenital heart condition died before their first birthday. Today, thanks to research and advances in treatment and care, eight out of ten babies with congenital heart disease will grow up to be adults. It’s a remarkable turnaround but we want to do more. Our Love Notes Campaign is just one of the ways people can help us raise money to fund crucial breakthroughs. By dedicating a Love Note to special someone – whether that’s a partner, a parent or a friend – you’ll be helping the BHF continue to beat heartbreak forever."

Find out more about Love Notes