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Father Will Walk 100 Miles To Save Hearts

Happy times with Renee Blues and dad, Ernie Blues.

Happy times with Renee Blues and dad, Ernie Blues.

Every parent would journey to the ends of the earth to give their child a fighting chance at survival. For Ernie Blues, this has become a literal quest. On June 26, Ernie will embark on a challenging 100-mile, seven-day journey on foot across the vast West Highland Way in the Scottish Highlands. The ultimate goal for this courageous dad is to help young heart patients in the Bahamas receive timely, critical care and the surgical procedures that make the difference between life and death.

In thankfulness for his own daughter’s survival of a viral heart attack at the age of six, Ernie aims to raise awareness and much needed funds for the Victor Sassoon (Bahamas) Heart Foundation.

The Foundation assists less fortunate children in receiving critical care, pace makers, and surgery to treat heart related issues and infirmities.

Working in tandem with the Charity Of Hope Foundation, the philanthropy arm of Furniture Plus, where Ernie is employed, the management team and staff have rallied behind Ernie to support his heart-inspired quest by being the first to provide sponsorship.

“We are so proud of Ernie, and the efforts being made to further the work of the Victor Sassoon Heart Foundation in the country,” said Krystynia Lee d’Arville, vice-president of sales, marketing and organisational development at Furniture Plus.

“Every child deserves a healthy heart and the chance to live a full and meaningful life. This opportunity to support the life-saving work of the Heart Foundation, and the courageous step Ernie is taking reminds us of what is possible when we collaborate and take action to make a difference.”

It was in January of 2010, after attending a children’s party, that Renee Blues and her parents fell ill. In Renee’s case the vomiting was so severe that her parents rushed her to the Princess Margaret Hospital. What started out as a stomach bug quickly escalated to critical status when Renee inadvertently breathed in vomit and the virus began to attack her heart, a condition known as viral myocarditis. Renee’s heart began fluctuating wildly from 25 to 180 beats per minute indicating heart failure, and her parents were faced with the heart breaking news that Renee was dying.

Fortunately, Dr Jerome Lightbourne, one of the country’s pre-eminent paediatric cardiologists, was the resident doctor on the Children’s Ward that week. He was able to prescribe the correct treatment to stabilise Renee and take the immense strain off her heart. After four days, Renee’s heart began to slow down moving toward a more normal beating pattern, and thus began her long, but hopeful road to recovery.

Seven and a half years later, Dr Lightbourne still calls Renee his “miracle child.” She is now a teenager and has recovered to full health. She is even able to play soccer for her school team providing she maintains her annual check-ups to ensure her recovery continues.

“The reality in the Bahamas is that others are not so fortunate, in that they have a heart condition that requires surgery and their families do not have the financial means or health insurance to be able to afford life-saving treatment,” said Ernie. “I intend to use this walk as a platform to raise awareness but also funds that will ensure that other children can get the gift of a second chance at life like my daughter did.”

The public and corporate Bahamas is invited to sponsor Ernie’s Highland walk. Funds will be collected at Furniture Plus in the Town Centre Mall, at the cashier’s counter. Cheques can be made payable to Furniture Plus, Re: COHF: Heart Foundation/Ernie Blues Walk.

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