Ipswich mum Anna Borghesani prepares to run the London Marathon just a year after undergoing life-saving heart surgery for the second time
PUBLISHED: 09:00 06 December 2014
A year ago new mum Anna Borghesani was recovering from life-saving surgery. Now the Ipswich mum is training for the London Marathon. Sheena Grant reports.
Last year, Anna Borghesani found herself staring death in the face for the second time in her life.
Thirty five years earlier she had needed life-saving heart surgery at the age of just three and now she needed it again.
And this time, she was a mother herself. The stakes couldn’t have been higher.
“I knew that I would eventually need a second surgery but after the birth of my lovely daughter, Alice, the surgery became a scary reality in 2013,” says Anna, who was born with pulmonary stenosis, a congenital heart defect where the flow of blood between the heart and lungs is restricted by a deformity on or near the pulmonary valve.
“I needed a new valve as my heart had increased significantly in size due to the valve being leaky. The news was terrifying but I knew I had no choice.
“On November 6, 2013, I closed my eyes, lying on a hospital bed in London surrounded by the team of anaesthetist, nurses, and surgeons. I was terrified I would not wake up again. But I did. I woke up again with a new pulmonary valve.”
Italian-born Anna, 39, says she now feels like an “unstoppable force”.
So-much-so that she is taking on next year’s London Marathon and raising money for the charity Heart Research UK, to help others benefit from research she reckons helped save her life.
Anna, who lives in Ipswich with husband Tim, and little Alice, faced an uncertain future when she was born, breathless and without the strength or energy to even cry. Her parents were worried she wouldn’t survive.
But Anna was a fighter - and so were they. They refused to give up hope and eventually found a team of specialists in London who operated and corrected the problem when she was just three.
“When I was born the diagnosis was terrible. I maybe didn’t have long to live,” says Anna. “In 1978 I had my first open heart surgery with a pulmonary valvotomy, a procedure that enlarged the valve and made me a healthy three-year-old girl.
“Since then I have never stopped enjoying life in full and have taken on many sports including swimming, running, cycling, diving, skiing.”
In fact Anna, who is a scientist with telecommunication company Huawei, is also a part-time fitness instructor with Ipswich Borough Council.
“People like me do not have to give up life,” she says. “In fact we need to lead a healthy, active life to keep our heart fit. I have been monitored regularly by a great cardiologist in London who has always been supportive of my mad plans of triathlons and teaching fitness classes.”
Even so, she admits recovery after her second life-saving operation was hard.
“But step by step I got back on my feet,” she says. “I re-trained my body to walk, stroll, jog and then run from the five-minute slow walk I was struggling with in November 2013, to the 14 miles I can run now.”
Anna is doing the London Marathon because she says she wanted to prove you can recover from major health setbacks – and to raise funds for Heart Research UK, a charity that funds ground-breaking medical research into the prevention, treatment and cure of heart disease and since 2001 has awarded £1.75m to community-based lifestyle projects.
“You only live once and I sometimes feel I’m an unstoppable force,” she says. “My dad died when I was little and my mum has always given me a zest for life. I want to make people aware that even if you have major heart surgery you should not be a quitter.”
By supporting Heart Research UK Anna is hoping to raise funds that will help others like her in the future, and she sees it as giving something back after research and the expertise of surgeons saved her life.
“I never thought I could do a marathon but I have such a strong will,” says Anna. “I might be crawling on my knees towards the end, but I am determined to get past the finishing line.”