He had an operation to repair a hole in his heart when he was just five years old, but it hasn’t stopped Yorkshire boxer Tommy Frank from becoming a champion.
Now the 26-year-old, who is the current IBO Intercontinental Flyweight, Commonwealth Super Flyweight, and WBC International Silver super flyweight champion, has returned to the Leeds hospital to meet the surgeon who performed his operation 21 years ago as well as inspiring the young heart patients there.
He 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 – including those in Tommy’s home town of Sheffield.
Tommy, who last year won three international boxing titles, spoke to youngsters on the heart ward at Leeds Children’s Hospital about his experiences as a patient and showed them his boxing belts.
He also met Leeds-based children’s cardiac surgeon Carin Van Doorn who carried out his operation.
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.
Tommy said: “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.”
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.
Carin Van Doorn, said the ambition of heart surgeons in operating on young people was ultimately to give them a good quality of life so that they could flourish, and Tommy was a great example of that.
“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 they live.”
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 live life to the full.”