A BARNOLDSWICK teenager born with congenital heart disease is backing a national campaign.

Joshua Licastri, 13, is helping the British Heart Foundation raise funds for further research through its ‘Bag It. Beat It.’ campaign, which aims to help more than 4,700 youngsters battling the condition in the north west.

In 2001, Joshua’s mum Clare had a caesarean at 37 weeks because doctors didn’t think he could cope with the stress of labour after noticing a slow heart beat during pre-natal scans.

After being born and rushed off for tests, doctors diagnosed Joshua with a congenital heart block, which meant the chambers of his heart were not beating in synch.

Dad Paul said: “When Josh was born, Clare didn’t get to see him for seven hours. She said she felt empty because all she had was a photo of him.

“Josh’s heart rate was about 60 to 70bpm. A specialist explained that, in time, he would need to have a pacemaker fitted. The heart block was triggered by Clare having lupus, so she was also sent for tests.

“We prepared for the worst but he was coping fine on his own. He was breathing ok so we started to feel reassured.”

Allowed home when he was few days old, tests carried out twice a year showed Josh’s heart beat was gradually slowing – when last year it dropped to just 20bpm on a night time.

In October, aged 12, Joshua was fitted with a pacemaker. Paul added: “The procedure went really well and Josh was in and out in a day. He is now at high school and isn’t held back in any way by his condition.

“He will need to have his battery changed every five or six years, but should lead a completely normal life.”

Forty-four children a year born with heart defects in the north west die before they start school.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the BHF, said: “We still need much more research to ensure children born with such defects have the greatest chance of living a long and healthy life.”

The BHF is urging people to fill a bag with clothes, shoes, books, handbags, DVDs, CDs, bric-a-brac and children’s toys and take it to their local shop.