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Boxer inspires young patients at hospital where he had open heart surgery

UK News | Published:

Tommy Frank was able to thank surgeon Carin Van Doorn, who performed his surgery in 1998.

A champion boxer has returned to the hospital where he had open heart surgery at the age of five, to show children and their parents that being born with a serious condition does not limit your achievements in life.

Tommy Frank, who is the current IBO Intercontinental Flyweight, Commonwealth Super Flyweight, and WBC International Silver Super Flyweight champion, returned to the wards at Leeds Children’s Hospital where the hole-in-the-heart he was born with was corrected 21 years ago.

Frank, 26, was able to thank surgeon Carin Van Doorn, who performed his surgery in 1998 and continues to work at the hospital.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time,” Frank said.

“When I first started being successful in boxing, I always dreamed of coming back here and meeting the kids, and to be a bit of an inspiration to them.

“And obviously meeting Carin, it was a bonus as well – to actually meet the surgeon who operated on me, it’s amazing.”

Tommy Frank with surgeon Carin Van Doorn
Tommy Frank with surgeon Carin Van Doorn (Dave Higgens/PA)

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Frank said he cannot remember his surgery, but he has had no problems since, and he discussed with staff and patients the punishing training regime his heart has had to contend with, since he took up boxing aged 12.

“Hopefully I can be a bit of an inspiration for kids who had the same operations as me,” he said.

“I had a clean bill of health. As soon as I had those holes patched up it was ‘on your way’ and that was it. My heart is just a good as anyone else’s.”

Tommy Frank with his parents Christine and Kevin
Tommy Frank with his parents Christine and Kevin (Family handout/PA)

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“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.”

Ms Van Doorn said that Frank’s story “shows they don’t have to wrap their kids up in cotton wool.

Boxer inspires patients at hospital
Champion boxer Tommy Frank (then aged five), returned to the hospital where he had open heart surgery (Family Handout/PA)

The surgeon said that, in the recent past, the only concern was whether children would survive the operation.

But she said that now most patients come through the procedures, there is much more focus on living a full life after surgery and looking after their hearts as they grow up.

“Your heart shouldn’t hold you back as you try and pursue all the other talents that you have,” the surgeon said.

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