Kyra puts on her running shoes for a charity that is close to her heart

Only days after the joy of giving birth to her beautiful son in late 2018, Kyra McMullin and her husband Richard were in Birmingham Children's Hospital anxiously awaiting their newborn's life-saving surgery.

Omagh boy Max was born with a heart condition - Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome - which means he only has a 'half heart'. If it wasn't for the NHS staff's expertise, Max simply wouldn't be here.

Now a happy 18-month-old toddler, and another open-heart surgery later, Max is shielding at home amidst the coronavirus pandemic with his family, including brother, Noah, five.

Kyra has described the NHS staff as "absolutely outstanding", who her family "owes everything to", but in this unprecedented time in which local charities are desperately striving to stay afloat, she has decided to raise money for the Children's Heartbeat Trust, an organisation that has helped the McMullin family throughout their trying journey.

With the majority of fundraisers across the country cancelled for the foreseeable future, including the Belfast Marathon - which Richard was supposed to take part in this week - Kyra has decided to get creative to do her bit.

In order to achieve her target of £500, Kyra is lacing up her running shoes each and every day throughout the month of May to run either five kilometres or five miles.

"We chose this charity as it is not funded by government in any way; they are very reliant on fundraisers and the Belfast Marathon would have been a major event in their planning," explained Kyra.

"Even during this time they are still supporting families going through surgery. Surgery doesn't happen in Northern Ireland; you have to travel down south to Dublin or overseas to England. Quite often, you have to be away from family, even during this coronavirus pandemic.

"The Children's Heartbeat Trust has been very supportive to mummy, daddy and children of the family. They kept in contact on a regular basis when we were in Birmingham via phone-call, email and text messages. And they support families financially as well, to help alleviate the pressure."

The Children’s Heartbeat Trust has been working since 1984 to provide practical, emotional and financial support to children and young people living with heart disease and their families. They offer youth and family support services, funding research and campaigning for the voice of children, young people and their families to be at the heart of all congenital cardiac services.

Invaluable

For the McMullin family, their support was invaluable in what was the most difficult time.

"Max had his surgery at Birmingham Children's Hospital while Noah stayed with his granny and granda at home," said Kyra, who added: "It was a very tough time for us."

Now, during this unprecedented time of lockdown, the family is enjoying their time at home - even if it took some getting used to.

"Max is doing well at the moment," Kyra continued. "We are shielding him indoors and have been doing for the last eight weeks. I am a primary school teacher at Gibson Primary School and I'm used to routine - and we moved house during the middle of it, so that was a little hectic!

"I am home-schooling and teaching remotely, but it's going well - the days are going in quickly and I'm enjoying my time at home.

"We were doing a lot of shielding and isolating when Max first came home anyway. He wasn't allowed to be out and about until eight-weeks post-surgery. He was about five or six months old before we could venture to supermarkets with Max, although we still had to be quite careful."

Kyra admits the coronavirus outbreak has been "extremely worrying" for her entire family, but they are remaining positive - and the running challenge Kyra embarked on on Friday has been a welcome distraction.

"I have run 13 miles so far in three days," said Kyra on Monday morning. "The weather has been great and that makes it easier to get out. But ask me on day 24 when this challenge may get a little more difficult!".

To donate to Kyra's great cause, see www.justgiving.com

/fundraising/

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