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BOUNCING BACK TO HEALTH; Little Hollie 'died' twice before her second birthday, now she's...

Byline: WENDY HORTON

SPRINGING high into the air nine-year-old Hollie Pryce looks a picture of health and energy.

Her smile and rosy cheeks ooze laughter and confidence as she flies through the air from her trampoline.

But to those closest to her it's a new-found happiness they never thought possible - because Hollie "died" twice at 14 months after a string of heart attacks.

A heart defect undetected at birth meant the toddler flat-lined in her mum's arms. Medics battled to bring her back but mum Deborah heard a doctor say the heartbreaking words: "If we lose her again, I don't think we'll get her back." Her 30-year-old mother's fears began when Hollie was born. The tiny infant often refused to feed and, after she celebrated her first birthday, her lips began turning blue. She was prescribed antibiotics.

Then, when Hollie was 14 months old, events took a dramatic turn during a night the family will never forget.

Pearl, her grandmother, said: "Hollie was lying on the settee and her breathing seemed laboured.

"Within a short time Hollie's condition deteriorated.

By the time we got to the GP's surgery Hollie's whole body was limp. Her little legs and arms were floppy, she was just like a rag doll.

"With my granddaughter in my arms I was trying not to cry. I turned to the doctor and handed him Hollie saying, 'I'm not going to watch my granddaughter die, here you are'." She was taken to Llantrisant's Royal Glamorgan Hospital and initially given the OK. But the family asked for a second opinion and Hollie was given a chest X-ray. It found she had an enlarged heart, which was beating irregularly.

On advice from the University Hospital of Wales (UHW) in Cardiff, doctors at the Royal Glamorgan were told to stop Hollie's heart and then restart it in the hope it would jump back into rhythm.

"Deborah could not go in with her, she was outside waiting," said Pearl Pryce, 54.

"I had Hollie in my arms and she flat-lined but a second later she started breathing again.

"It was just like shutting off a light and putting it back on again but a hell of a lot more frightening.

"The doctor did the procedure twice but each time the heart was still beating irregularly.

"They said Hollie's condition had been difficult to pinpoint because it was intermittent. One minute she would be at death's door, the next minute fine." Hollie was transferred to UHW where single mum Deborah stayed by her bedside.

Pearl and her husband Wayne, 59, were told to go home.

Choking back tears, Pearl recalled: "Within hours we had a phone call saying, 'Your granddaughter's taken a turn for the worst, your daughter needs you'.

"When I got into the ward I thought I'd lost them both.

"I could hear Deborah wailing.

When I saw Deborah she had her head in her hands and was rocking back and forth. I thought, 'Dear God, Hollie's dead' and I am going to lose my daughter to a mental institution as I knew she couldn't cope with that sort of loss.

"What happened was that Hollie had become tired in Deborah's arms and just flat-lined. She had suffered a cardiac arrest and all hell broke loose.

"They managed to bring Hollie back but in the corridor on the way up to intensive care she suffered another one and flat-lined again. They brought her back again but then Deborah heard doctors say, 'If we lose her again I don't think we'll get her back'." Hollie was put onto life support while medical teams fought for days to regulate her heart. Deborah stayed constantly at her side. After exhausting all medication, doctors came up with what they described as a last option. It worked and three weeks later Hollie, who also suffered a blood clot, was discharged. But her ordeal left the toddler with temporary blindness, deafness and unable to even hold up her head.

Her grandmother, who regularly helps to look after Hollie, said: "She was like a newborn child and had to be fed through a tube.

"Slowly her sight and hearing came back and she learned to walk, talk and play again." With daily medication, Hollie tried to overcome the trauma, which left her two years behind her classmates.

But frequent bouts of tiredness left her with a short attention span and hit her confidence - until Hollie, then five, discovered trampolining on a day out to Caerphilly Big Cheese Festival.

"And that was that, and she has never looked back," said Pearl.

"We had to buy her one for home and she started attending weekly classes." With sessions at Caerphilly Leisure Centre with coach Julie Proctor, Hollie has earned eight British Gymnastic Awards. More importantly, the exercise has boosted her confidence and improved her health.

Deborah, who lives in Hopkinstown, near Pontypridd, said: "She's a completely different girl now.

"When we first brought her to trampoline class we had to push her through the doors in a buggy - now she absolutely adores it.

"It used to be she wouldn't mix with other children but now she's a cocky little madam.

"It has been a terrible time for us but really I don't know any different. During the bad times I went onto auto-pilot, that's how I coped.

"Now it's just part of our lives along with trampolining. I can't even book a holiday because Hollie has marked the Caerphilly Big Cheese Festival on the calendar already as she takes part in a weekend of displays.

"Trampolining has really made a difference. It's the only thing she can stick to. She used to like swimming but can't do that because of two perforated eardrums, so trampolining is perfect for her.

"She absolutely puts everything into it. She has such an adrenalin rush when she's doing it." Hollie, who will attend Hafod Primary in Trehafod after the Easter holidays, and still has to take medication to shrink her heart, said: "It's fun.

I just love jumping up and down.

"When I'm doing it I enjoy it because I don't feel tired at all."

SUPPORT: Hollie Pryce with her mum Deborah (right) and nan Pearl Pr yce PICTURES: ANDREW DAVIES[umlaut] Heart problems AN ENLARGED heart refers to a heart muscle which is larger than average for the age and size of the person concerned.

Often the whole organ is not affected and only the exterior wall is thicker.

There are a number of causes, the most common is related to high blood pressure as the heart struggles to empty entirely and the blood is permitted to build up in the tissues.

But an enlarged heart can also be the consequence of other cardiac conditions, particularly those involving defective valves.

There are often no obvious symptoms - the condition may be initially diagnosed following a routine x-ray.

Treatment can involve drugs to lower blood pressure and often focuses on the underlying cause rather than the enlarged heart itself.

WalesOnline.co.uk /video WATCH THIS VIDEO CLICK ON See Hollie with a spring in her step
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 12, 2009
Words:1181
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