County Durham toddler who underwent heart transplant appears on BBC Rainbow Trust appeal

Family support worker Monica with Bea Adamson-Archbold
-Credit: (Image: Drew Cox)

A County Durham toddler who spent months attached to a mechanical heart while she waited for a suitable heart donor has appeared on a BBC appeal.

Three-year-old Bea Adamson-Archbold celebrated her birthday in January after spending her first Christmas at home with a brand new heart. Her story has since been documented on a BBC appeal on behalf of Rainbow Trust Children's Charity, which supports families who have a child with a life-threatening or terminal illness.

Bea was rushed to A&E with heart failure when she was just 15 months old and remained there for over a year attached to a mechanical heart, which kept her alive while she waited for a suitable donor. After her first night in A&E, Bea’s mum, Cheryl Adamson, did not return home for 16 weeks, instead staying in hospital accommodation to be close to her daughter. Terry Archbold, Bea’s dad, would go home at 7pm and return at 7am to be with her.

Coping with the very real fear that Bea might die, the family, from Burnopfield, was also separated from their older daughter Eliza has they helped look after Bea. Heartbreakingly, the family had already suffered a tragedy in 2018 when their baby daughter Isabel died of an unrelated heart condition.

A hospital social worker at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle referred Bea’s family to the Rainbow Trust and a family support worker called Monica, who started working with the family in spring 2022. Monica helped out by collecting Eliza from school, taking her to hospital for visits, and provided much-needed respite for the family. She would also put Bea to bed in hospital once a week so Cheryl could spend more time with Eliza and attend school events.

Bea Adamson-Archbold who had a heart transplant
Bea Adamson-Archbold who had a heart transplant -Credit:Rainbow Trust

“I never wanted to leave Bea,” Terry said. “To have the trust and faith in Monica that I could leave and return to hospital knowing that she would be cared for knowing she was going to have fun was enormous. Without Monica, Bea would be screaming when we left hospital. With Monica she would wave us off.”

Monica provides both practical and emotional support for the family. Terry continued: "Monica’s support has been invaluable. She has been spot on with all of us in different ways. She was able to come into hospital and the bond she has built with Bea was incredible. She is like family. Unless you have been in that environment you cannot explain to someone what it’s like. You’re living every day with the reality that your child might die. Monica understands this.”

Parents of heart transplant survivor Bea Adamson-Archbold, Cheryl and Terry
Parents of heart transplant survivor Bea Adamson-Archbold, Cheryl and Terry -Credit:Rainbow Trust

After a 14-month wait, the call finally came that Bea had a heart donor and had a transplant in July 2023. After recovering in hospital, Bea was able to come home and continue to enjoy life as a happy three-year-old with her family. Monica continues to support the family as they settle into new routines and adjust to life at home. The continuity of Monica’s support means this transition has been smoother for Bea, who only knew life in hospital for almost half of her life.

Cheryl and Terry added: “We wouldn’t have coped without Rainbow Trust. When all is overwhelming, impossible to manage, feeling that there is no light, a Family Support Worker like Monica can help.”

The family have featured in the BBC Lifeline Appeal on behalf of the Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity. Presented by broadcaster and writer Gyles Brandreth, the programme is available on BBC iPlayer until 10am on June 16 and will be repeated on BBC Two on Friday, May 31 at 8.50am.

You can visit the charity website here.