A FOUR-year-old boy and a French bulldog puppy have struck up an unlikely friendship after being diagnosed with the same heart defect.

Mattia Ferasin, four, from Four Marks near Alresford, was born with several severe heart conditions. At just six days old, he underwent life-saving open heart surgery at Evelina London Children’s Hospital.

One of the surgeons who cared for Mattia has a dog with the same problem.

Mattia’s parents Heidi and Luca, who are both veterinary cardiologists, carried out similar surgery on the dog, Büdu.

Hampshire Chronicle:

Tomorrow they are taking on a 160ft abseil to raise money for Evelina London, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

Heidi, 38, said: “We have always felt that we have a huge debt to the staff at Evelina London particularly, but also the staff at St Thomas’ Hospital where Mattia was born. We are very aware that without their skill, passion and compassion, Mattia may not be here today.

“It was such a major eye-opener for us to see the number of people involved, the skill of the staff, as well as the number of other children and families facing the same problems every day. This is our way of giving something back to Evelina London on its 150th birthday because no words can ever express the gratitude that we feel.”

The mother-of-two added: “Thanks to the surgery and the ongoing care of the cardiology team, Mattia is a thriving, healthy and happy little boy who just celebrated his fourth birthday.”

During their time at Evelina London, Heidi and Luca got to know Dr Caner Salih, a consultant paediatric cardiac surgeon who was part of the team caring for Mattia. Dr Salih had recently got a French bulldog puppy named Büdu and, knowing they were fellow cardiologists, told the couple about a heart murmur that was detected at his first visit to the vet.

Hampshire Chronicle:

Luca invited Dr Salih and Büdu to his practice, Lumbry Park Veterinary Specialists in Alton. There, Luca discovered that the dog had a ventricular septal defect – a hole in the heart – coincidentally one of the defects which had been successfully corrected during Mattia’s surgery.

Dr Salih says: “Following the diagnosis, I wasn’t sure how Büdu should be treated. Luca advised that we wait and watch and remarkably the hole closed without the need for surgery, which Luca tells me is very rare. Büdu has now made a full recovery. He’s not the brightest dog in the world but he’s family.”

Luca, 54, said: “When the image of the defect appeared on the screen of my ultrasound machine during Büdu’s examination, I was so surprised because it was one of the same congenital defects that Mattia had. Büdu’s defect closed spontaneously, within a year which was even more surprising. This outcome has only been reported in a couple of cases in veterinary history.”

Luca and Heidi have already undertaken fundraising for St Thomas’ Hospital and Evelina London Children’s Hospital, but this is particularly challenging for the couple, not least because Luca is terrified of heights.

Luca said: “For me this is like Mission Impossible. I have to conquer a really big fear that I’ve had all my life, but when I saw Heidi’s enthusiasm and of course the great cause, I had to be involved.”