Evelina London patient to take to the dance floor on Children in Need

Last updated: Thursday, 16 November 2023

Children's models

Brianna with her dance partner, Nadiya

16-year-old Brianna from Ipswich will be showing the nation what she can do when she takes to the dance floor with Strictly Come Dancing professional, Nadiya Bychkova, live on the BBC.

Brianna was born with a rare genetic condition called Cat Eye Syndrome. She had open heart surgery at Evelina London Children's Hospital at just 1 week old. 

After this surgery, her family was introduced to the Evelina Children's Heart Organisation (ECHO), a charity that receives funding from BBC Children in Need.  

ECHO works closely with the children's heart (cardiology) teams at Evelina London, and has been supporting children and young people with heart conditions and their families since 1983.

Over the years, Brianna has had extensive surgery and deals with fatigue, issues swallowing, and hypermobility (very flexible joints that can cause pain).

Having loved dance when she was younger, but needing to give it up because of the uncertainty of the evolving nature of her condition, this is a challenge Brianna never thought she would be taking on. Brianna is determined to show others what she is capable of, and didn't hesitate to say yes when she was given the opportunity to take on the challenge.

Brianna said: "Some days are really tough physically but I'm gradually getting there and I won't let anything stop me!"

"I'm so grateful for the support I have received from ECHO over the years. They've helped me to see that I didn't need to hide who I am from the world. I hope that I'll be able to show to other young people that so much is possible!"

Dr Paraskevi Theocharis, a consultant paediatric cardiologist at Evelina London, said: "I have no doubt that watching Brianna dance live on the BBC will inspire so many other children and young people living with complex health condition to see what's possible and to try something new."

Dr Sara Hanna, Medical Director at Evelina London, said: "On behalf of everyone at Evelina London, I'd like to wish Brianna good luck ahead of her live performance. Every year, we deliver care and support to around 104,000 babies, children and young people in our hospital and community services with a wide range of health conditions and Brianna will inspire every one of them."

ECHO has been supporting families for 40 years. Many members consider ECHO a strong network for every stage of their heart journey. Often, people access support in a crisis, and again years later as they reach different milestones. Families affected by congenital heart disease can join ECHO for free.

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