Grandson Joe is inspiration for ‘giant’ challenge

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A Ballymena native is taking on a giant 26 mile walk for her grandson who underwent two major heart operations before his first birthday.

Having just celebrated grandson Joe’s third birthday, Jacqui Seymour is also showing her ongoing support for the work of Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke by signing up to NICHS’s Causeway Coast Challenge Walk on Saturday. September 24.

Baby Joe underwent a heart operation when just days old, another at nine months old and is still set to undergo yet another operation just before he starts primary school.

Recently launching the Challenge Walk at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge Jacqui (59) said: “When we were given the news that Joe had a serious heart defect and would need three major operations, for once, I couldn’t hug my daughter and tell her it would be ok.

“As any mother knows, to watch your child in pain and not be able to fix it, is the hardest thing to bear. In the weeks following Joe’s birth, there were many days of pain and uncertainty, when Joe had his first heart operation, and almost didn’t pull through, it resulted in him having to stay in hospital for seven weeks.

“I realised that, a grandparent whose grandchild is ill experiences double sorrow - once seeing their own child in pain and twice when their beloved grandchild is seriously unwell and may not survive.

“The whole experience was hard, completely life-changing and very humbling. I’d do anything to help ensure no other family has to go through what we’ve been through. That’s why I have supported NICHS these past three years, fundraising and sharing our Joe’s experience. I’d do anything to help ensure no other family has to go through what we’ve been through - anything to make a difference.

“There has however also been unbelievable joy, watching Joe smile for the first time, hearing him giggle and laugh, or just looking at him sleeping peacefully. Joe teaches us something every day,” said Jacqui.

She added: “Now I am taking on my biggest challenge yet – 26 miles along the Causeway Coast.

“If Joe can cope with two major heart operations before he’s even celebrated his third birthday then I know that I can do this,” said Jacqui.

“NICHS is currently funding research which may well find a reason why congenital heart disease happens and I think that that’s a cause worth supporting.

“I hope that, in the future, unlike me, another mother will be able to hug her son or daughter and tell them that everything is going to be ok. That’s a dream worth walking a few miles for,” she said.

To join Jacqui in taking part in the Causeway Coast Challenge Walk on Saturday, September 24, register at or by calling 028 9032 0184.