Family taking part in seven peaks Mournes challenge for charity

Family taking part in seven peaks Mournes challenge for charity

7 February 2024

A SELFLESS teenager is in training to hike the seven peaks of the Mourne Mountains for the Children’s Heartbeat Trust to mark the tenth anniversary of his brother’s life-threatening condition.

James Dainty (14), from Saintfield, will climb 19 miles in one day alongside his father, Andy, uncle Jeff, family friend Karl and pet dog Star, with the aim of raising £10,000 for the Children’s Heartbeat Trust – a charity that is dear to James and his family.

Ten years ago, James’ brother, Jacob, was born with a form of congenital heart disease known as transposition of the great arteries (TGA).

Jacob’s arteries were not wired up the right way and oxygenated blood was not circulating around the rest of Jacob’s body.

His mother, Louise, described the traumatic event for her and her family as “something no parent wants nor should go through”.

She said: “When Jacob was born we were absolutely delighted like any other parent would be to finally see our beautiful baby.”

Jacob was born at the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald, but three hours after he was born, he was rushed into surgery after a nurse noticed that his feet were blue.

“A nurse called Lauren noticed Jacob’s feet,” Louise continued. “The term itself is called ‘blue-baby syndrome’, and it’s because there wasn’t enough oxygen circulating through his body.

“He was taken away very quickly to Clark Clinic at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

“It was horrendous, there’s so many things that race through your mind, but we didn’t have a choice, he would not have lived if he didn’t have the surgery.”

Hospital staff handed Louise a photo of Jacob as they left – he was just 14 hours old when he received his surgery.

A hole was cut inside Jacob’s heart to allow the blood to mix with the oxygen and buy him some time until he could get to London for his corrective surgery. 

Jacob received his second surgery when he was 12 days old in the Evelina Children’s Hospital, London.

“It was such a horrific time for us as a family,” Louise recalled. “The doctors explained to me that 75% of the babies that receive the surgery survive.

“I was sick to my stomach – I just couldn’t shake the feeling that we were going to be one of the unlucky ones.”

While Louise and Andy were with their newborn son in London, the Children’s Heartbeat Trust made contact with them to provide support while Jacob received his surgery.

Thankfully, after seven hours of extensive surgery, Jacob’s operation was a success.

“I honestly couldn’t believe we were one of the lucky ones,” said Louise. “There are so many children who do not survive this surgery – we are beyond blessed to be one of the families who didn’t have to experience this heartache.”

Jacob celebrated his 10th birthday on January 18 – a milestone that his family did not expect to see when he was a newborn.

To mark this occasion, older brother James and other family members will undertake a total ascent of 8,826ft across the seven highest summits of the Mournes on May 5.

“James is such a determined young man,” said Louise. “He wanted to do this as part of his Duke of Edinburgh award, which requires you to fundraise for a cause.

“Rather than think of something conventional like a coffee morning, James came up with the idea to climb the seven peaks.

“I was surprised and told him that you can’t just get up one day and do seven peaks in one day – I told him he needed to train, so they’re starting that this weekend.”

James has picked the target of £10,000 for the Children’s Health Trust – £1,000 for every year since his younger brother Jacob was saved.

James, who is Year 11 at Down High School, Downpatrick, has autism but uses that as a positive to focus on his passions and his upcoming projects.

“James has an awareness of his autism and while social situations can be difficult for him and cause him anxiety, it means he excels in other areas,” Louise explained.

“I know he will be successful, because when he puts his mind to something he will always see it through.”

Louise continued: “It has been an extremely emotional time for our family.

“The fact that it’s been ten years has been very profound – it’s made Andy and I revisit some of the things we went through and we had a very open and honest conversation about what the whole experience was like as a family – I can’t emphasise enough how lucky we are that we’re all here and healthy.

“When Jacob found out his brother was doing this in his honour – he just put his arms around him and gave him the biggest hug.

“Both of them have experienced so much at such a young age – they are two incredible young men and we could not be prouder of them.”

To follow James’ journey as he endeavours to conquer the seven summits of the Mournes, or to make a donation, go to the GoFundMe website and search for ‘James’s 7-7s Mourne Hike fundraiser for Children’s Heartbeat Trust’.