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Nine-year-old with heart defect sent supportive letter from Kingston police officer

A nine-year-old boy aspiring to join the police despite a heart defect was sent an ‘emotional’ letter of support from a Kingston police officer also born with a heart problem. 

Jack Yeoland, who had open-heart surgery as a baby, received a letter and police badges from MSC Tom Karlsen, 20, a volunteer at Kingston Police who himself had a heart defect and underwent heart surgery at five-months-old.

Jack’s mum Sarah Yeoland, 45, said: “When the letter arrived Jack was completely over the moon, jumping around the kitchen, going crazy. 

“I was completely overwhelmed by the kindness of somebody who didn’t know us at all.

“The words he put in the letter were really lovely and to do that for somebody you don’t know is a lovely act of kindness. We were completely overwhelmed.

“It’s comforting whenever you hear of success stories, of adults that have gone on to do amazing things. It just gives you hope that he will be able to go on and do these things and that there is opportunity for him out there. 

“On World Book Day last week, Jack dressed up as a policeman and he had a Zoom call with all his classmates and the teacher got him to tell the story.

“Then on his first day back he took the letter and the badges in for a show and tell so he’s completely buzzing.

“For the first six months of Jack’s life he was quite a sickly baby and I had the feeling that something wasn’t quite right.

“He was having ‘Tet spells’ where he couldn’t breathe and was going all blue. It got to the point where one day he was so horrendous with them I phoned the consultant’s secretary out of desperation and begged her for help.”

Jack was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot, a rare condition caused by a combination of four heart defects, and a month later, aged 14-months, he underwent a six-hour open heart surgery.

Sarah said: “My first instinct was: ‘oh my god is he going to die.’ It was traumatic after being told by doctors there’s nothing wrong with your son.”

Jack’s surgery was successful, though he still has yearly check-ups at the Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospital and will require further surgery in his teenage years to connect larger valves to his adult-sized heart.

Similarly, Karlsen was diagnosed with coarctation of the aorta as a baby, where the vessels leading to the heart are too narrow.

He required lifesaving surgery at the Royal Brompton, where his sister now works as a family liaison officer.

She regularly shares Karlsen’s story on hospital charity the Brompton Fountain’s Facebook page, and upon coming across a comment from Sarah detailing Jack’s heart condition and desire to become a policeman, she asked her brother to help.

Karlsen said: “It was really a letter to my younger self.

“My family went through exactly the same thing his family went through. He’s got a heart defect, I’ve got a heart defect – there’s no one else in the police service that would have that in common with him.

“He will go through what I went through. He will wonder if he can do the job of a police officer. There was always that thought in the back of my mind that I wouldn’t ever be able to.

“For me personally I worried a lot. It was really disheartening at times, so hopefully that letter is there if Jack ever needs to look at it and gives him that little bit of drive and excitement.

“I wasn’t saying you’ll definitely get into the police, I wasn’t giving false promises but just the reassurance he will need to drive his dreams forward.

“Apparently Jack’s mum called up the hospital and spoke to one of my sisters’ colleagues crying down the phone after receiving the letter which is so lovely. When I heard that it made me smile – I felt like crying.”

Kingston Police have since invited Jack to visit the police station when it’s Covid-safe to meet Karlsen in person and potentially a police dog too.

Sarah said: “Jack cannot wait. He’s still completely over the moon with it all.

“I think I’ll shed a tear. I’ll be a very proud mum when he gets to visit.”

Karlsen added: “I will have to hold back the tears. I’m just hoping there’s no photography if it happens because I’m going to be in the background blubbing away with a bunch of tissues.”

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