Polegate dad takes on triathlon to thank hospital that saved his baby son’s life

A father is celebrating his son’s birthday by taking on an adrenaline fuelled triathlon to thank the hospital that saved his life.

Thursday, 26th September 2019, 4:56 pm

Sebastian Martin was born in September 2016 but it wasn’t until he suffered from a bad cold three months later that turned into Bronchiolitis (RSV) that doctors found he had a hole in the heart, a condition known as Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD).

The hole occurs in the wall (septum) that separates the two lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles) that allows oxygenated blood and deoxygenated blood to flow through. This means that the lungs receive extra blood, causing the lungs and heart to work harder. This in turn meant he struggled to feed or put on weight.

Sebastian was referred to Evelina London Children’s Hospital and underwent open heart surgery at five months old.


His dad, John Martin, from Polegate, said, “Sebastian was struggling to feed or put on weight. In December 2016 he became very ill and after passing out at home was rushed by ambulance to our local hospital. He spent his first Christmas there which was an extremely scary time for all the family and a lot for us to take in.

“So much goes through your head. We were very concerned about what our son was having to go through but we also had our then two year old daughter to think of. We struggled to explain to her what was happening and to make Christmas was still fun for her.

“Despite all of this, once referred up Dr Aaron Bell at Evelina London we knew we were in safe hands. All of the staff were extremely helpful and calm and were happy to answer any questions or concerns we had.”

Though the hole in Sebastian heart was repaired successfully, months later he started to become very short of breath. Following further tests over the next year from Dr Bell and the Evelina London cardiology team, it was found that Sebastian would require another open heart surgery.


In July 2018, at 22-months-old, Sebastian underwent his second open heart surgery to cut away the scar tissue.

John, a 40-year-old supermarket manager, said, “Scar tissue had begun to form around the VSD patch in his heart, which was causing a narrowing of the artery, so the blood couldn’t pump out of the heart quickly enough.

“Even though we’d been in the position before and we had confidence that the surgery would be a success, the fear we had the first time around didn’t really go away.

“However, less than 24 hours after the surgery, Sebastian was running around the play room on the ward like nothing had even happened. His recovery has been astounding. He’s just like any other little boy and has just celebrated his third birthday. You wouldn’t know that he’d been through such huge surgeries at such a young age.

“Our experience with Evelina London has been so overwhelmingly positive and we really can’t thank the cardiology team enough.”

John will tackle Guy’s Urban Challenge on September 28 to raise money for Evelina London, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

The event involves a 2.5km run, 15km spin on a static Wattbike, and climbing the 628 steps of Europe’s tallest hospital building, Guy’s Hospital tower.

John said, “I’ve previously run two half marathons but this is the first time I’ve attempted something like this. I’m not too worried about the run and the spin, but running up 29 floors at the end is definitely going to be a huge challenge.”

As well as Sebastian, John will be cheered on at Guy’s Urban Challenge by wife, Julie, and their five-year-old daughter, Grace.

Dr Aaron Bell, who monitors Sebastian every six months, said, “It is fantastic that Sebastian has recovered so well following his second open heart surgery. It’s no mean feat to undergo two huge surgeries like this and it really is a testament to what a strong and resilient boy he is.

“The cardiology team and I would like to wish his dad John the best of luck with Guy’s Urban Challenge, and send our thanks for raising funds for Evelina London.”

John is taking on the triathlon as part of the Cardiology Kids campaign, a patient led initiative which aims to raise £150,000 for the Evelina London Cardiology Department. To help John reach his fundraising target visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/John-Martin59

The Evelina London cardiology service cares for around 6,000 children every year who have been diagnosed with a range of heart problems.

Evelina London is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. The hospital was founded in 1869 as Evelina Hospital for Sick Children by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, whose wife, Evelina, died along with their baby in childbirth.

To find out how Evelina London will be celebrating its special birthday, visit www.evelinalondon.nhs.uk/150