Boxing champion thanks Leeds heart surgeon for gift of life operation 21-years ago

A champion Yorkshire boxer returned to the Leeds hospital where he had heart surgery as a five-year-old boy  to thank the  surgeon who enabled him to follow his dreams.

Tommy Frank, 26, had an operation to repair a hole in his heart at Leeds General Infirmary 21-years ago and is now a successful professional sportsman who won three international boxing titles last year.

Tommy, of Sheffield, visited the heart ward at Leeds Children’s Hospital yesterday to meet up with his cardiac surgeon Carin Van Doorn, who has operated on thousands of youngsters.

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Inspirational Tommy also spoke to young heart patients about his experiences as a patient and showed them his boxing belts.

Tommy Frank visited to the Leeds Childrens Hospital to meet Carin Van Doorn, the cardiac surgeon who performed his operation 21 years ago. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Tommy, an ambassador for Heart Research UK, said: "I can't thank her enough. This hospital is absolutely fantastic."

"I'm hoping that a child with heart problems can look up to me and believe that there are really no barriers to succeeding in sport.

“Thanks to the treatment and care I received I have been able to get on with my life and follow my dreams.

"If I can inspire just one child to realise their dreams too then I feel I will have achieved something.”

Tommy Frank aged five after his heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary.

Tommy also gave his support to the Yorkshire and Humber Congenital Heart Disease Network, which shares expertise, training, treatment and care from the specialist cardiac centre in Leeds throughout a network of hospitals across Yorkshire to help heart patients.

Carin Van Doorn, who has been a consultant heart surgeon since 1999 and operates on up to 300 patients a year, said: "I’m delighted Tommy is doing so well in his boxing career.

"It is testimony to the congenital cardiac network that patients across Yorkshire can benefit from the expertise available at a specialist centre like Leeds.

“Having the network not only means we can provide consistent treatment but our patients have access to the highest quality congenital heart disease care irrespective of age or where

Tommy Frank is pictured with heart patient Amelia Brown, 12, from Skipton during his visit to the Leeds Children's Hospital. Picture: Tony Johnson.

they live.”

Tommy, who is the current IBO Intercontinental Flyweight, Commonwealth Super Flyweight, and WBC International Silver super flyweight champion, met and chatted with young patients and their parents.

He met seven-month-old Myles Wood, of Cleckheaton,, who has been at the unit since he was born with a heart defect and has undergone four operations.

And Tommy spent time speaking to Amelie Brown, 12, of Cononley near Skipton, who is recovering from her fifth open heart surgery.

Tommy Frank aged five after his heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary. Tommy is pictured with his parents Kevin and Christine.

Ameila's dad Julian Brown, said: "She has been here on and off since she was a baby and the care has always been fantastic."

Tommy said it was his parents, Christine and Kevin, who encouraged him to take part in sport instead of “wrapping him in cotton wool” because he had a heart condition.

He first attended Sheffield Boxing Centre when he was 12.

- The Yorkshire and Humber Congenital Heart Disease Network, which is hosted by Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust as its cardiac specialist centre, promotes expertise in the treatment of congenital heart disease for patients from birth through to adulthood so they get the best possible care available throughout their lives and as close to home as possible.

Debra Wheeler, who manages the Yorkshire and Humber Congenital Cardiac Network, said: “It is lovely to hear Tommy’s story and I am sure it will be an inspiration to many young

people and families living with congenital heart disease. As a Network this is what we are trying to achieve - the best possible quality of clinical care for all our patients so they can

Tommy Frank aged five after his heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary.

live life to the full.”