Thankful father takes on a hat trick of challenges

Posted on Tuesday 5th October 2021
A photo of Hanif in hospital as a child next to a picture of Hanif as an adult fundraising from Evelina London

A father, who was fitted with a pacemaker as a child, has taken on a trio of fundraising feats to thank Evelina London for caring for him.

Hanif Karimi, from Southampton, recently took on a 160 feet abseil from the top of St Thomas' hospital. He has also completed a sky dive and a full body waxing to raise funds for Evelina London. Now 40-years-old, Hanif wants to let parents know that children with heart difficulties can still live life to the fullest.

Before Hanif was born, a congenital heart block was diagnosed at his mother’s 20 week scan. A heart block affects the electrical system of the heart meaning that the electrical impulses are not passed effectively through the heart. This causes the blood to be pumped around the body more slowly. At four years old, Hanif was fitted with his first pacemaker at Evelina London, which at that time was housed inside Guy’s Hospital. The pacemaker releases electrical pulses and allows the heart to beat normally. After having a new pacemaker fitted when he was eight years old, Hanif found himself back in Evelina London where he stayed for more than seven months.

The father-of-one said: “My body kept rejecting my pacemaker and the area where they were fitted kept getting infected. This meant I had to have the scar in my chest opened and cleaned repeatedly, then have new pacemakers fitted each time.”

Despite this, Hanif has fond memories of his time in hospital. He said: “There were some difficult and painful times, but also good times. I remember being allowed to watch the 1990 World Cup final before an operation, a nurse who used to play guitar for all the children and a nurse who, like me, was an Everton fan.

“It was things like that which really kept us going. The staff really went above and beyond and they made it so that your life as a child wasn’t just about your illness. That was so important.”

When Hanif was 12 years old, he came under the care of consultant cardiologist Professor Eric Rosenthal, who became an important figure in his life. Hanif is still cared for by Professor Rosenthal to this day and he fitted his most recent pacemaker in 2018. 

Professor Eric Rosenthal said: “Hanif is one of the pacemaker patients I’ve looked after for a very long time - indeed I have known him now for over 30 years. I’ve performed six pacemaker procedures on him since he was a child and he’s always been very positive and accepting of all the things we’ve had to do to treat his condition.

“As in most children born with complete heart block, modern pacemakers are able to allow a fully active life and Hanif is a fantastic example of that.

“I admire him for all of his fundraising efforts and am very impressed at all of the lengths he’s gone to, not to mention very grateful.”

Hanif said: “Since I was a child, Professor Rosenthal has always encouraged me to be me. He’s always told me to go out and enjoy my life. That is such an important thing to hear for both children and adults with a pacemaker. He can be brutally honest when he needs to be, but he’s never tried to stop me from living my life because of my condition.”

Hanif hopes that by doing his fundraising challenges, he will be spreading this message to others with heart conditions.

Hanif says: “I just feel so lucky to be here. Without the care I received throughout my life, I might not have been."

To donate to Hanif’s fundraising page, visit JustGiving.