Former Alder Hey Children’s Hospital patient becomes new governor

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Former Alder Hey Children’s Hospital patient becomes new governor

Simon Jacobs spent his childhood being treated for a heart condition at the Liverpool-based hospital, but nearly 30 years on he's "giving back" to Alder Hey

Simon Jacobs is certainly no stranger to hospitals. Having been diagnosed with a minor heart condition at 10 weeks old, he spent much of his childhood as a patient at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Manchester. Now that connection has come full circle, with the proud 28-year-old recently named as one of the hospital’s new governors.

Over the next three years, Jacobs hopes to give back to the very place that cared for him after he was diagnosed with a coarctation – or narrowing – of the aorta, meaning his heart has to work harder to pump blood around his body.

Typical symptoms of the condition include breathing difficulties, poor appetite, dizziness, fainting, chest pain, fatigue and blood pressure issues. It is estimated that a congenital heart condition, such as coarctation of the aorta, occurs in about seven in every 1,000 pregnancies.

For Jacobs, treatment began when he was just over two months old, leaving him with a full-length scar running down his back that he likes to show off as one of his party tricks.

But the reality of his childhood involved several procedures and regular consultant check-ups to monitor his progress, including trips to Alder Hey between the ages of 10 and 17.

The former student of King David High School in Manchester recalls how his parents, Estelle and Alan, struggled initially to deal with their son’s diagnosis and first operation while he was still just a baby.

For Alan, the hardest part was having to hand him over to the doctors to go down to surgery, so he handed his son over to Estelle, who had to do the deed instead; a fact they joke about now. Jacobs laughs: “Dad has always been the softie and mum is definitely the boss!”

Simon as a baby with his father, Alan

Despite his parents’ concerns, Jacobs never felt he was treated differently to his younger brother, Nathan. They saw Jacobs not as an ‘unwell child’, but rather as a normal child with a relatively minor heart condition – an attitude that meant Jacobs himself has never let it hold him back. He says he can often go “weeks and even months without giving it a second thought”.

There were, of course, times that Jacobs, while undergoing treatment, had to miss out on friends’ barmitzvahs or a school trip to Israel – but it’s that experience he credits with “making me who I am”.

He reveals: “Growing up with a heart defect meant I was different to many others. Although I resented having this condition, as I became older I began to understand this was what made me who I am. Once I embraced that, it made me realise how powerful I could be and what I could achieve.”

And he really has achieved a lot. Harbouring entrepreneurial ambitions, Jacobs started his first business at 16, went on to gain a degree in international business at Nottingham University, hosts his own podcast and has even written a book, Get Started, which gives useful advice and tips on how to stop procrastinating and make things happen.

Simon, right, with his parents and brother

Two years after graduating, he became a brand manager at Camelot and, according to his LinkedIn profile, made him the youngest person at the time to be given that role.

Since then, he started his own marketing consultancy and launched a variety of successful businesses, including Professional Weirdos, which offers creativity and mindset training and encourages individuals and businesses to grow, develop and ‘unleash their inner weirdo’.

As a self-confessed “weirdo” himself, Jacobs feels the company’s name reflects his optimistic and distinctive outlook on life.

He adds: “I think, because of my experiences, I have a viewpoint that makes me different, but in reality there is no such thing as ‘normal’. I believe everyone has their own story and perspective, which makes them unique.”

The latest challenge he has set himself is as a governor for the wider north-west area at Alder Hey, a position he will serve for the three years. He reveals: “I am forever thankful to Alder Hey for what they did for me. They were all truly amazing.

“When I received a letter earlier this year saying they were looking for new governors, I thought it would be a great opportunity to give back and say thank you for everything they’ve done.”

As a governor, he joins a cross-section of people connected to the hospital, including staff, carers, parents, partner organisations and patients and will help the hospital with forward planning, performance and making decisions.

Simon is especially keen to use his expertise in tech and innovation to help make changes for the better at Alder Hey and describes his new role as “massively fulfilling”.

“I am incredibly honoured to have been selected as a governor for this incredible hospital,” he adds, “and I’m really looking forward to making a difference.”

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