South Yorkshire woman Kim is living proof of how charities can save lives

Kim Botham, right, with her surgeon Kevin Watterson. middle and another heart patient.
Kim Botham, right, with her surgeon Kevin Watterson. middle and another heart patient.

Thousands of singers will be in full voice this festive season to support the annual ‘Sing for Your Heart’ fundraising cause for Heart Research UK.

The event sees scores of choir groups and performers flex their vocal chords every year to raise money towards funding pioneering research into the prevention, treatment and eventual cure for heart disease.

Community reporter Lee Peace spoke to one heart patient who is living proof of how fundraising for research projects can save people’s lives.

School teacher Kim Botham owes her life to pioneering research into treatment for heart disease.

Kim Botham with her dad  Michael at her graduation.

Kim Botham with her dad Michael at her graduation.

The 26-year-old was born with several separate heart conditions which collectively means she is living with ‘half a heart’.

As a toddler she underwent a life-saving operation to have a specialist shunt fitted - which had only just become available thanks to medical research paid for by generous charity fundraisers.

But she said the need for donations is greater than ever - if more people are to be given a new lease of life like her.

The Brinsworth woman said: “The shunt I had in 1993 was new and had I been born ten years earlier all the signs are that I would have died young.

Scanning Horizons performing at Sheffield Rail Station at last year's Sing for Your Heart event.

Scanning Horizons performing at Sheffield Rail Station at last year's Sing for Your Heart event.

“Researchers are doing some amazing work but they need more support. We are at a stage where they can essentially re-plumb your heart but there is no cure for the conditions that I and many others have.

“If the funding is there, then the next stage on from providing treatment is to find cures for heart conditions. People trying things out and attempting things in research is the only reason I am here today. This shows that people who raise money for research directly helps to save people’s lives.”

Kim was born with the transposition of the great heart arteries, abnormalities with one of her heart chambers, a narrowing of her pulmonary artery, and a hole in the heart.

But thanks to advances in treatment techniques, discovered through charity-funded research programmes, she has managed to life a full life and now works as a primary school teacher.

Date:21st June 2011.'Campaigners arriving at Downing Street, London, to hand in a petition of over 500,000 signatures at number 10, against the possible closure of The children's heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary. Pictured Campaigner Kim Botham, helping to an ambulance trolley, containing hundreds of petitions past the entrance of Downing Street.

Date:21st June 2011.'Campaigners arriving at Downing Street, London, to hand in a petition of over 500,000 signatures at number 10, against the possible closure of The children's heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary. Pictured Campaigner Kim Botham, helping to an ambulance trolley, containing hundreds of petitions past the entrance of Downing Street.

She is an active campaigner for heart research causes and handed in a 500, 000-name petition to 10 Downing Street in 2011 as part of the campaign to keep open the children’s heart surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary.

Heart Research UK has spent nearly £600,000 on research grants in South Yorkshire in the last 15 years and nearly £50,000 on healthy heart grants for community projects aimed at encouraging people to be heart healthy.

Kim is urging members of the public to help keep up this fundraising momentum and support Heart Research UK this Christmas by taking part in Sing for Your Heart.

She said: “This is why things like Sing for Your Heart are so important in raising money to help progress new techniques that save lives.”

Charity bosses are urging choirs, music groups, performers and anyone who fancies a sing song to arrange their own ‘Sing for Your Heart’ event. They are also appealing for pubs to pull in the punters by hosting their own sing-a-longs in aid of the charity.

And specialists say that just by joining in, you can also boost your heart health.

Professor Graham Welch, chair of music education at the Institute of Education, University of London, who has studied medical aspects of singing for 30 years, said: “Singing has physical benefits because it is an aerobic activity that increases oxygenation in the blood stream and exercises major muscle groups in the upper body, even when sitting.”

Heart Research UK is also inviting members of the public to be in full voice at two recitals held at Sheffield Railway Station on the evenings of December 18 and 23.

Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus will be leading the first session and have been involved with the Sing for Your Heart event for more than a decade.

Chairman Julie Smethurst said: “Over the years, we have become increasingly aware of the wellbeing benefits of choral singing, not least for the promotion of healthy hearts. We love ‘singing for our hearts’ for the often tired commuters as they make their way home through the station - this kind of performance is so positive and joyous, it really is one of our favourite parts of the pre-Christmas festivities.”

Barbara Harpham, national director of Heart Research UK, added: “It’s the perfect excuse to get together with friends, family and colleagues to have fun and raise money.”

For more information about how to get involved, visit heartresearch.org.uk/fundraising/plan-your-own-sing-your-heart-event.