Swanage family’s fund raising thank you for saving their baby’s life

Swanage parents Rob and Alice Cattle are on a fund raising mission to give back to the community which helped their baby daughter as she fought for her life.

Little Isla is now a toddler, up on her feet and learning to walk, after heart surgery to repair two holes in her heart when she was just four months old.


One year old Isla has now recovered from major surgery to fix two holes in her heart

So many people they want to thank

Rob and Alice now want to raise money for the charity, the Ronald McDonald House which provided accommodation and support for them through the anxious days when Isla needed life saving surgery at Southampton General Hospital.

The couple’s first fundraising event is a children’s jumble sale and cake bake at St Edwards Church Hall in Rempstone Road on Saturday 2nd March 2024 from 10am until 12 noon.

Then in April 2024, they will be setting out on a 45 mile sponsored walk from Swanage to the Ronald McDonald House in Southampton to raise more money for the charity.

A Just Giving page set up by the couple has already passed the halfway mark towards Rob and Alice’s first target of £1,000 thanks to generous wellwishers.

But the fund raising is unlikely to end there, as the couple have so many people they want to thank for getting them through the nightmare which began with Isla getting a winter cold in the days before Christmas 2022.


The Ronald McDonald House at Southampton aims to be a home from home for anxious families

“This is just step one”

Alice Cattle said:

“We would like to raise money for the Ocean Ward at Southampton which looked after Isla, and the paediatric department, so this is just step one, we can’t do it all at once.

“The walk, over two days, is going to be a challenge for us, we originally thought it was 38 miles but the route turned out to be straight up the A35 so we had to take a longer one to make it safer for us.

“It’s important to both of us that we do something to give back to the community, and Ronald McDonald House has a very special place in our hearts.

“It relies purely on donations but provides a home away from home for families in need of somewhere to stay when their child is in hospital, often a long way from their own community.”


Over five floors, the house provides lounges, kitchens, laundry rooms and much more to make a stay as comfortable as possible

“We needed to be by Isla’s side”

Alice added:

“Rob and I stayed there for almost a week and without it, we would have had to drive to Southampton and back every day and wouldn’t have been able to be by Isla’s side all the time, where she needed us the most.

“It is completely free, the rooms are very well equipped and they do a lot of activities for the siblings of the children in hospital, like baking for pancake day, or making cards for Valentine’s Day, to provide a distraction and to keep spirits up.

“We were lucky enough to have my parents and Rob’s parents to care for Amelia most of the time while we were in hospital with Isla, but a lot of parents don’t have that choice of having other family close by and have to uproot everyone.”


Sister Amelia was kept occupied at the Ronald McDonald house while Isla was being operated on

Swanage Medical Practice was amazing

Neither ante natal scans nor checks after birth picked up any problems with Isla, but when she caught a cold at four weeks old she became very ill.

Alice Cattle said:

“I phoned the doctors and said she wasn’t at all well and Swanage Medical Practice doctors saw her that afternoon, but I noticed as I was just arriving at the centre that she was struggling to breathe and she went downhill really rapidly.

“The staff at Swanage Medical Practice were absolutely amazing, they picked up a significant heart murmur and saw to her really quickly, put her on oxygen, called an ambulance and the air ambulance, but fortunately they stabilised her enough to be blue lighted to Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester.

“When she arrived there she had x-rays and scans. She had bronchiolitis but because she had such a severe heart defect – which we were completely unaware of at that point – her organs couldn’t cope and she was struggling to breathe.”


Baby Isla fought for her life as a sudden cold turned to bronchiolitis

Two holes in her tiny heart

While Isla stayed at Dorset County Hospital for five days, specialist scans picked up two holes in her tiny heart, one of which measured an inch, and a consultant at Southampton General Hospital said she would need open heart surgery to repair them.

A surgery date was set for February 2023, but was delayed for a week for an emergency case which took precedence before a six hour operation went ahead on Thursday 16th February 2023 at Southampton General Hospital.

Isla will need annual check ups until she is 18 or older, but cardiologists are not anticipating further problems for her.


Isla (right) has made a full recovery from her operation, pictured with her older sister Amelia (left)

“She is certainly full of life now”

Rob Cattle said:

“She changed almost overnight after the surgery and is now so full of energy. Looking back on photos, it was frightening how ill she looks. She was a bit pale and slept a lot, but we thought that was having a winter baby, she was only four weeks old.

“My friend’s wife has just had a baby boy who was 9lb 6oz at birth, where Isla only weighed 9lb 4oz at four months old, she couldn’t put on weight as feeding wore her out.

“But now she’s certainly full of life now, a normal little toddler and making up for it.”


Back together and looking to the future; Amelia, Rob, Isla and Alice Cattle

“We are very lucky”

Alice Cattle added:

“We would like to pass on special thanks to Dr Basham at the Swanage Medical Practice and to local paramedic Liam Blake.

“We have so much praise for Swanage Medical Practice, they responded so quickly and if we’d been anywhere else I am not certain we would have had such a good outcome. They are an amazing service and we are very lucky.”

Further information

  • Contribute to the fundraising total on Alice and Rob’s Just Giving page
  • More about the Ronald McDonald House at Southampton

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