Heart girl Claire has a mountain to climb

CLIMBING the UK's highest mountain would be a notable achievement by anyone's standards.

For an 11-year-old who has barely walked up a hill, it will be even more impressive.

And when you factor in that Claire Bate has battled a heart condition, which left her in intensive care for five weeks last year, the fundraising ascent of Ben Nevis – which she will take on later this month – becomes remarkable.

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The Portobello youngster said she wanted to commit to the challenge with her father Robin, 53, and her older brother, also Robin, 28, to repay the hospital in which she spent so much time.

"It will be tough but she's very much her own person and she's in good hands," said Mr Bate, a civil servant for the Scottish Government. "She just wants to help other children receive the level of care she did by raising about 5,000."

GPs first noticed a problem in Claire, now a pupil at Towerbank Primary, when she was eight months old.

They detected a murmur in her heart and she had to undergo surgery to address it, and while this was a success, some repair work had to be left until her body was old enough to withstand it. "At the time, although we were extremely worried, it was actually a relief because she wasn't eating happily and we knew there was some kind of problem," Mr Bate added.

Although she was able to lead a fairly normal life between then and receiving the corrective procedure, the family always knew she would have to go back for a harrowing operation to repair the holes in her heart – some of which were the width of a pencil – and the mitral valve.

The operation took place at Yorkhill Hospital in Glasgow, where all heart surgery for children in Scotland is carried out, but did not go as planned, leaving her with a five-week intensive care stay and an infection.

Mr Bate said: "At the time you just get on with it, and she took it all really well. She knew she was in there to get better, and within a week she was back at school to finish the last two weeks before the holidays.

The trio, along with Robin Jnr's girlfriend Charlene, will take on the 4,409-foot hike on 26 June. They have set up a webpage for people to donate at www.justgiving.com/robin-bate.

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Claire added: "I am looking forward to it. It's a big mountain and it will be hard, but I've had a lot of sponsorship from my school and support.

"I hope the hospital can buy more stuff with the money I make to help treat other children."

• www.justgiving.com/robin-bate

• www.yorkhillchildrensfoundation.org