The Christmas lights in London’s Seven Dials will twinkle in time with the beat of the heart of two-year-old Billy Hopkin today.
Heroic Billy was diagnosed with Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA) at his mum’s 20 week scan.
TGA is a condition where the two main blood vessels leaving the heart are swapped over and affects 1 in 10,000 babies.
After a traumatic 13-hour operation at just 7 days old, Billy has come on in leaps and bounds and is starting to find his feet at two years old.
Normally the ‘Merry Christmas from Seven Dials’ lights are static, but thanks to children’s heart charity Tiny Tickers today shoppers will be able to see ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Heart’.
The innovative campaign involves the lights being controlled by Billy’s heartbeat to remind passers-by of children who can’t visit the lights this year due to heart conditions.
The result is said to be ‘magical’ and ‘moving’ and has been seen by thousands of people visiting Seven Dials as they hunt for Christmas presents and enjoy festive dining experiences.
This year, the Christmas installation features bespoke lights and decorations adorning the seven streets which includes over 200 recycled milk bottles to fashion the ‘Merry Christmas from Seven Dials’ signage.
There is also 300 white snowflakes that create a traditional winter wonderland to be enjoyed until January 2018.
Tiny Tickers is a small charity dedicated to helping improve the detection, care and treatment of babies with serious heart conditions.
The charity is highlighting that whilst everyone else is admiring the Christmas lights, many babies and young children face a very different Christmas; in hospital waiting for, or recovering from, open heart surgery.
Billy’s mum Rebecca, from Bicester, said: “Christmas is meant to be the happiest time of year but I think it’s very easy to forget that lots of families could be going through a really hard time – and sadly they don’t get to enjoy the holidays together.
“I really wanted to be involved in this idea because it’s really important to keep making noise and raising awareness about heart disease – but also make people aware of the wider impact it has on families.
‘’Most of all we just really want people to stop and think, because it could happen to them.
“Thankfully we have incredible support from charities such as Tiny Tickers – but the funding doesn’t magically appear, it relies on donations from the public.
‘’So I really hope this activation encourages people to donate – even if it’s just a small amount.”
Katie Lawson, from Tiny Tickers said: “At Christmas, many children suffering heart conditions like Billy miss out on the lights and magic due to operations or recovery.
”We work to keep the lights on for these little stars, so any donations would be an amazing Christmas present”.
Karen Baines, head of group marketing & communications, Shaftesbury says: “It’s a shame any child should miss the magic of Christmas.
‘’Seven Dials is about as festive as Christmas shopping gets, and with thousands of visitors set to admire our Christmas lights in the run up to Christmas day, we were delighted to use their power to shine a light on such a powerful cause.”
Those wishing to donate to Tiny Tickers should visit www.tinytickers.org or text TINY22 £5 to 70070 to donate to Tiny Tickers and help give tiny hearts a better start in life.