The family of a little girl who died from complications arising from a congenital heart defect has urged Jewish community members to support a “football marathon” to raise money for cardiac research.
The 12-hour event, to be held on 29 July at Watford Powerleague from 9am to 9pm, will be in memory of Shani Berman, who had several operations at Great Ormond Street Hospital until she finally lost her battle, aged five.
The family’s charity – Shine for Shani – is now raising money to fund cardiac research at the children’s hospital and aiming is to raise £70,000 over two years to support research into child heart transplants.
Great Ormond Street’s Professor Tessa Crompton and her team want to improve the success of heart transplants by looking at ways to stop the recipient’s immune system attacking the new heart and donor tissue.
If the new techniques prove effective in animals, they could then be used in people, and could even be applied to other transplant operations such as kidneys.
Shani was always told she had “a magic heart,” after she was born with a congenital defect which meant she had a hole in her heart and no valve linking her heart to her lungs. In risky open-heart surgery, doctors fitted a tube, which worked until Shani was 20 months old, when she suffered heart failure.
Remarkably, the little girl pulled through, despite very low oxygen levels, until she was aged five, when doctors again had to operate. Tragically, she did not survive the operation.
Now parents Simon and Juliet, who live in Borehamwood, together with sister Tammy and brother Joel, have asked the community to get involved, either by playing or donating, with 250 already signed up to play at some point.
“We want to find a way to make Shani’s memory into a blessing and help Great Ormond Street to help improve the health and life chances of children with heart conditions and give them the chance to live full and happy lives,” they wrote. “Thank you for your support.”