Imogen steps out to save lives

Three year old heart patient Imogen Tankard with her mum Vicky
Three year old heart patient Imogen Tankard with her mum Vicky
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Doctors gave tiny Imogen Tankard just hours to live. Now three, she is fund-raising for charity. Catherine Scott reports.

When Imogen Tankard was whisked into hospital after suffering a cold her parents were devastated to be told their baby could just have hours to live.

Vicky Dalby and her partner Keir Tankard braced themselves for the worst after doctors discovered a complicated heart problem that left the youngster clinging on to life.

Imogen, who was just five months old, had to undergo complex open heart surgery and was placed on a life support machine.

But now Imogen, three, from West Park, Leeds, is planning to undertake her second 5k run for national charity Heart Research UK and she will be joined by Leeds 5k ambassador and Olympics gymnast Louis Smith.

“From about three months old I was worried about Imogen,” says mum of four Vicky. “She didn’t seem to have any energy and was losing weight. The doctors and the hospital kep tell me she had bronchiolitis and she would be fine, but when she was six months old and had a a cold she started to struggle to breathe. Thanks to a student doctor who had spent time on the heart ward, she recognised something wasn’t right. And when they scanned Imogen her heart was enlarged and were were told that she had just hours to live because her heart and lungs were failing. It was just like a time bomb and she was so critical that they couldn’t move her.

“It was just frightening and we couldn’t believe it.”

Imogen was diagnosed with cor triatriatum which caused her heart to struggle to function properly. The tot’s condition was so rare that the hospital only treats cases like Imogen’s once every three or four years. She underwent open heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary to correct the heart condition that was making her ill.

Now she’s a healthy, lively youngster who wouldn’t be here today without research into heart disease according to her mum.

Imogen and her family completed the Subway Helping Hearts 5k event last year and have decided to do it again on August 31 to raise even more funds that can help in the prevention, treatment and cure of heart disease.

“Taking part in the event and meeting others who have had heart surgery really brings it home to you what a difference all the money raised for Heart Research UK can make,” says Vicky. “It is such a feel good event for everyone and we all come together for one reason: to help save lives.”

Imogen is doing so well that Vicky has just signed her up for gym classes, such is her boundless energy. “Everyone says they would never have known what she’s been through,” added her mother.

Imogen and Vicky will be doing the event on August 31 along with her sister and brother, Coral and Josh, Vicky’s sister Angela Dalby and Imogen’s cousins Kian and Lexy.

Subway famous fan, Leeds 5k event ambassador, and Olympics and Commonwealth gymnast Louis Smith said: “I’m honoured to be a part of the Subway Helping Hearts Family 5k and to see the series return to Leeds once again. It really is a worthwhile initiative and I hope the 5k will inspire families to get active together whilst helping to make them aware of the importance of heart health. It’s so easy to register, just go to the website to get involved and I promise you’ll have a fun family day out in return.”

Families are encouraged to help raise money for the Subway brand’s charity partner Heart Research UK with money helping to fund the Heart Research UK and Subway Healthy Heart grant schemes in Yorkshire. This is an initiative which provides up to £10,000 of funding to new and innovative projects that actively promote heart health in the community.

A grant of nearly £10,000 has been given to the charitable arm of Guiseley Football Club through their ‘Lion Heart’ project which encourages pupils and their families to eat better, exercise more and look after their heart health. The six week programme will focus on children and their families. Pupils will spend five weeks learning all about the function and mechanics of the heart, the role of exercise, impacts of lifestyle choices and engage in a 45 minute sports session each week.

For more information on the August 31 event visit