A dad from Ross-on-Wye, whose daughter was born with a rare heart condition, will be taking part in this year's Simplyhealth Great Birmingham Run on Sunday, October 13, to raise money for Birmingham Children's Hospital Charity.

Mark Husbands, 36, is gearing up to run the iconic half marathon course to say thank you to the hospital where his daughter Holly, seven, received three life-saving operations after she was born with a congenital heart defect. 

At their 20-week-scan at Hereford County Hospital, doctors told Mark and Holly's mum that they had found an abnormality in their baby girl's heart – they couldn't see one of her ventricles. Holly was diagnosed with a condition called Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome, which meant the right side of her heart would struggle to pump enough blood to her lungs. Due to her high-risk pregnancy, Holly's mum was referred to Birmingham Women's Hospital where she could receive specialist care and Holly could be delivered by specialist consultants.  

Within 24 hours of being born at the women's hospital, Holly was transferred straight to Birmingham Children's Hospital and admitted to the Infant Cardiac ward, where she underwent her first operation at just two-weeks-old. Using keyhole surgery, doctors successfully inserted a small tube into Holly's heart, to allow blood to flow into her lungs, but this was a temporary fix and they told her parents that Holly would need two more operations in the future. Holly was only eight months old when she underwent her second operation, this time open-heart surgery to make further repairs to her tiny heart. 

Holly's heart was monitored for the next few years and then in March this year, at the age of seven, Holly was ready for her third and final operation.  The wait during her final surgery was agonising for Mark, and after seven hours – which felt like an eternity – Holly was brought out of theatre. However, soon after, doctors and nurses swarmed around her bed, and Mark knew something was wrong – Holly was experiencing more bleeding than expected. Luckily, they were able to stop the bleeding and Holly could begin to recover.

Mark said: “Each time, waiting for Holly to come out of theatre has been the worst experience I've ever had as a parent – you feel so helpless. It hurt us so much to see her lying there covered in tubes and drains, but after the third operation it was a relief to know it was all done and our little girl had got the chance to live a normal life.

“Holly had to stay at the hospital for 10 days before she could go home, but she's such a grateful little girl and never complained once. As we left the hospital she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said ‘Daddy, I'm not out of breath anymore!' - I shed a tear myself.

“The doctors and nurses at Birmingham Children's Hospital have given Holly a new lease of life and saying thank you just doesn't seem enough.

“I recently took up running again with my local church group and I've planned a series of half marathons and challenge runs for the next year. I ran the Birmingham 10k for the charity earlier in the year and just thought running the Birmingham Half Marathon – in the same city Holly was treated – would be a poignant tribute to Birmingham Children's Hospital.”

Miranda Williams, Public Fundraising Manager at Birmingham Children's Hospital Charity, said: “Holly has been through so much during her young life, but we're glad to see she's out the other side and able to live life to the full.

“We're so thankful that Mark has decided to take part in the Great Birmingham Run for us. The Great Birmingham Run is one of our favourite events of the year, as we see so many of our amazing supporters in our red balloon charity vests take over the streets of Birmingham! We'll be right behind Mark and our other fantastic supporters who tackle the 13.1 mile route on the day.”

The Simplyhealth Great Birmingham Run route, with a new start, showcases the best of the city centre plus popular spectator spots in Bournville and Cannon Hill Park.

Starting on New Street, the half marathon will pass the famous Rotunda, Selfridges and St Martin's Church before taking thousands of participants along Pershore Road and into Bournville and then Cannon Hill Park.

The Great Birmingham Run series is one of Birmingham Children's Hospital Charity's biggest annual fundraisers. To get involved, visit bch.org.uk/great-birmingham-run

To enter the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham Run directly click here

Anyone who entered the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham 10k in May will automatically receive a £10 discount off the half marathon entry fee, when registering with the same log in details.