Brave Reggie Aslin will meet lead out his beloved Grimsby Town alongside his best friend, who suffers from a similar heart condition, when the team faces Walsall on Saturday.
Seven-year-old Reggie was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, meaning he only has half a heart. Earlier this year he suffered a series of strokes following surgery designed to prolong his life, and doctors feared he might not walk or talk again.
However, as we reported last month, Reggie has made a remarkable recovery. To celebrate, he will join Alfie Donnelly, 10, as mascots on the pitch at Walsall’s Bescot Stadium tomorrow. To make the occasion even more special, it will be the first time that Reggie and Alfie have met in person.
The boys met through a Facebook group, via their mums. Alfie had spent a lot of time in a hospital in Birmingham with complex congenital heart disease, while Reggie was treated in Leeds. The pair hit it off straight away and often sent each other presents during lockdown. Now, they’re excited to meet each other face to face.
Reggie’s mum Michelle Aslin said: “The two of them have been friends since Reggie was born really, but have never actually met. We’ve often tried in the past, but surgeries and illnesses have got in the way.”
She added: “They’ve been really supportive of one another and would send each other presents during lockdown when they were both isolating because of how vulnerable their conditions made them. I met his mum, Claire, through a Facebook group and it’s quite surreal to think they’ll actually be meeting in person after all these years.
“We’ve even bought Alfie a Grimsby Town top to give to him when we get there.”
Like Reggie, Alfie was given life-saving surgery shortly after birth. Doctors warned his parents that he might not see his first birthday, but following surgery, he has made a slow, but impressive recovery.
Their meeting has been made possible by the Free Kicks Foundation, a group that helps seriously ill, bereaved and disadvantaged children enjoy time at their favourite football club. After being chosen by the charity, Alfie picked the match against Grimsby, so that he could meet his friend Reggie.
Speaking to Birmingham Live, Alfie’s mum Claire said: “Alfie was just one week old when he had his first operation, and he was a little fighter. He has since had two more open heart surgeries, which included replacing the damaged valve in his heart with a donor valve.
“Alfie’s recovery after surgery has been slow and he has had further complications. Following his first and second surgery, Alfie had a build-up of fluid in his lungs and this required several chest drains, which meant spending further time in hospital.
“With what Alfie has been through, it has made us a solid family and we all appreciate life even more.”
Original story at https://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/sport/