Gerald has clinic to thank for son’s life

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A CRAIGAVON man is setting off on a rather long walk to hospital.

Gerald Clifford’s 27 mile trek is to say thank you to the Clark Clinic for keeping his baby boy alive.

10 month old Liam is Gerald and his wife Joanne’s first child and his entrance into the world was not without drama.

Gerald said: “Liam has been in and out of the Clark Clinic for the last 10 months. He was born with pulmonary atresia.”

Pulmonary atresia is a form of congenital heart disease in which the pulmonary valve - an opening on the right side of the heart - does not form properly.

Gerald said: “Liam was born in Craigavon Hospital. It was discovered six hours after he was born that his pulmonary value was closed and he had a hole in his heart. This news turned the best day of my life into one of the worst.

“Dr Bell and her team in Craigavon stablised him and then he was taken to the Royal. He was born at 3.30 in the morning and was in Belfast by 12.”

Gerald (33) and his wife Joanne (34) feared the worst.

Gerald said: “We had him christened in the hospital. He’d started to lose oxygen because the value wasn’t open. At 10 days old they put a wee stent in to allow his heart to stay open.”

“Oxygen should be at 98 to 100 per cent saturation. His got as low as 70.”

Liam was in hospital for 17 days and underwent a number of operations. Although he looks like a perfectly healthy 10 and half month old baby, Liam must be monitored regularly and attend the Clark Clinic for check ups. To this end the Clifford family are one of the first in Northern Ireland to have access to a telelink between their home and the Clark Clinic.

Joanne said: “If we give them a call they switch on the telelink and we can hold Liam up so the nurses can take a look at him. It’s brilliant for us because we’re first time parents and because of what Liam his been through it’s only natural to be overly cautious.”

Gerald said: “I was trying to think of something to do to raise money for the Children’s Hearbeat Trust who work alongside the Clark Clinic. I came up with the walk to follow Liam’s journey from Craigavon Hospital to the Clark Clinic.”

Gerald will be doing the walk along with three friends - Niall O’Dowd, Davy McTaggart and Joe Turley.

He said: “We’re planning to leave Craigavon Area Hospital at 7am and think it will take us about eight hours or so. We might raise more more by betting on what mile I’ll collapse at.”

Gerald is the store manager for Reid furniture on the Boucher Road. He and Joanne have been married for eight and half years. The walk in aid of Children’s Heartbeat Trust will mark Liam’s first birthday.

To help Gerald raise money for the children’s charity click on

Gerald said: “I wish I never had to meet the staff at Clark Clinic and the Children’s Heartbeat Trust team but now that I have I will be forever in their debt for the support, help, and compassion that they have shown to myself and my wife, both while we were in Clark Clinic and for the last 10 months since we brought Liam home.”

Children’s Heartbeat Trust is a local Northern Irish charity which has been supporting children with heart disease and their families since 1982.