In January 2018 we applied to the BBC for a Radio 4 Appeal and 6 months later were absolutely thrilled to learn that we had been successful. Thus began a period of enormous excitement because, for a small team like us with big ambitions, this felt like a breakthrough.
Briefing sessions were attended, a project team formed and we were ready to start preparing for our appeal. The BBC instructed me to ‘Find a celebrity presenter with a connection to your cause’. No mean feat. I was absolutely blown away when Olympic silver medallist, world champion athlete and CHD patient Roger Black MBE returned my call one sunny October afternoon to say that he would love to be our presenter. Now the game was really on.
We just needed to find the perfect case study to bring our appeal to life. The BBC had asked for a focus on one particular project and I chose to go with mental health, because I feel strongly that there is a very real need for more mental health support for people with CHD and that we are in a good position to provide it. Funds raised from a BBC appeal would help us upscale our services in this area and provide more patients with greater support.
When I wrote the application I borrowed a quote that one of my former colleagues used on social media a few months beforehand that had really resonated with me. It was from a lady called Sarah, and it talked about the dark days she went through when as an adult she was first diagnosed and told she would need open heart surgery. I couldn’t be sure that Sarah was her real name – as we often change names to protect patient privacy – but, whoever this incredible young lady was, I needed to find her.
With help from the fantastic team here we found her, and one Thursday evening I got the email I had been hoping for. Sarah wasn’t Sarah at all, she was Izzy; and Izzy was very excited to be involved, telling me, “I wrote that comment as part of an article a little while ago as I wanted to help other people who are going through what I went through. When I wrote it I thought, ‘If I can help one other person by talking about how I felt, then I’ll be happy.’” I replied to Izzy saying that she was about to help a few more people than she had originally planned…
Cue lots of work on a script for Roger to read and telling ‘Izzy’s Story’, then fate took an amazing turn. I was working on script edits over the Christmas break when another incredible patient, Andrea Farley-Moore, got in touch to offer help. Andrea just happened to have been responsible for writing Terry Wogan’s scripts for Children in Need in the past. I couldn’t believe the timing. Between Izzy, Andrea and myself we came up with a script that the BBC were happy with and the time came to head into the recording studio with Roger. We took patient Lowri Smith, a keen photographer, with us to capture the moment. This completed the patient-led team I was hoping for, so a very big thanks goes to Izzy, Lowri and Andrea for their help and support during this process.
Roger was incredible from start to finish, swapping stories with Izzy and Lowri and being the ultimate professional and perfectionist when it came to recording the appeal. Roger, if you’re reading this, thank you so much for giving up your time to come and help us. This is a real game changer for us and we couldn’t have done it without you.I can honestly say that this is the most exciting project I have ever worked on. It feels like we’re on the edge of something big that can help us reach more people and support more patients, and I have an unwavering conviction that putting resources into upscaling our mental-health offering for people with CHD needs to be one of our top priorities for 2019 and beyond.

The appeal will air at 07.54 and 21.26 on Sunday 12th May and again at 15.26 on Thursday 16th May.

Nicola Graves, Development Director