Nicole Saville is the last person you’d expect to have a heart condition.
But the 20-year-old fitness instructor received the shock of her life last year when she discovered she had a hole in her heart – and would eventually need open heart surgery to fix it.
“I first realised there was a problem when I found doing simple things really difficult and I was out of breath a lot of the time,” said Nicole, of Blake Hall Drive, Mirfield.
“And then one day in September I started feeling really strange, struggling to breathe. At first I just thought it was a panic attack, I couldn’t figure out what else it could be.”
After three days in Dewsbury and District Hospital, doctors discovered a hole in her heart that was stopping it from functioning properly.
“It turned out I was born with the hole and it just got bigger as I got older, which is why it was taking up more energy for me to do things,” Nicole said.
“It didn’t feel that real when they told me at first. The only thing I could think of was ‘Am I going to be able to carry on doing my zumba and working?’ ”
Nicole’s mum Sandra, 51, said: “In front of Nicole, my fiancé Oliver and I were trying to be really positive,” Sandra says. “But away from her it was awful and we were really worried.”
When a procedure in January failed, Nicole was sent to the specialist heart unit at Leeds General Infirmary and told she needed open heart surgery.
Thankfully, the five hour operation was a success.
“The NHS doesn’t often get praise but with things like this they are really good,” says Sandra. “The way they looked after Nicole was absolutely wonderful and she felt like she was the only patient in there.”
Sandra is particularly grateful to Take Heart, a Yorkshire-based charity which aims to help patients suffering from heart conditions and offers support to their relatives.
“Take Heart gave me a room next door to where Nicole was in the hospital with a bed and a shower. It was all free and it was fantastic because I could just be there for her throughout the whole time.”
Although the operation was a success, Nicole’s return to full health and fitness has been a long and gruelling one.
“The surgeons had to break my sternum and ribs to get to my heart so when I woke up I was in agony,” she explained. “It was a pain like I’ve never experienced.
“When I got home there was still so much I couldn’t do, I even had to have my teeth brushed for me. But now I’m getting back towards the level of fitness I was at before. I’m back doing two classes a week and hopefully soon I’ll start doing more.”
Now Nicole is fundraising for Take Heart with a special zumba class on August 31 , 10.30am, at Roy Ellam’s Health Club in Mirfield.Tickets are £4.
To book, or make a donation, contact Nicole on 07734757531.