Meet the patients: Ashton Hicks

Ashton HicksTeenager Ashton Hicks won three gold medals at the 2009 Special Olympics in Leicester, at the age of 18.

The gymnast from Shirley, Southampton, won golds in the floor, rings and vault events and came fourth overall in his category.

Despite having very complex congenital heart disease and physical and learning difficulties, Ashton is a keen sportsman and excels not only in gymnastics, but also in athletics and cricket.

Ashton was born with a large hole in the back chambers of his heart and had a major operation as a toddler to repair this.  Following the operation he had a stroke and lost some of the use of his right arm.

He has since had several further operations to correct the defects in his heart and has regular appointments at the hospital. 

Between the ages of 16 and 18, teenagers can choose whether they are seen by the paediatric or adult doctors and nurses.

On moving across to the adult service, Ashton said: “It is a bit scary and I’ll have to get to know different doctors and nurses on E2. Margaret Porter, the sister on E1 Ocean Ward, has known me since the day I was born. I’ll also have to get used to the doctors talking to me and not my mum, so I’ll need to understand my medication and conditions.”

Luckily for Ashton the clinical nurse specialists are on hand to help his transition. Gill Harte and Colette Cochran work in paediatric cardiology and Lynda Tellet and Mel Finch work in adult cardiology, providing a liaison service.

The liaison nurses provide a link between patients and consultants, educating patients and staff about congenital heart disease. They are there to support patients and their families, and can help with the process of a patient moving from paediatric to adult care.

They can also offer teenagers with congenital heart disease advice on lifestyle issues, such as travelling, going to university and staying healthy.

For now, Ashton is concentrating on his athletics training.

This story was first published in Connect magazine.