Over the past six months, the story of Bonnie’s Crew has grown and changed – just like the little girl it’s named for.

My name is Kate Garrett, and I am a writer and editor. I am also a mum.

Our fifth and final child, Bonnie Melissa, was born on 23rd January 2018. Just over 24 hours after her birth, she was whisked off to Leeds General Infirmary Congenital Hearts unit for tests and monitoring, to determine the severity of a congenital heart defect we didn’t even know she had.

Fortunately – and I can’t stress how lucky we are – her initially very worrying condition (tricuspid regurgitation due to a dysplastic tricuspid valve – so non-oxygenated blood was going through her body instead of the healthy, oxygen-rich kind, and a baby with oxygen sats of 78-84 is not a well baby) improved with three days of oxygen treatment. Now, according to her cardiologist, it has been thankfully downgraded to a minor issue. Her sats at her last check up, with no help at all, were 97! She also has a slightly enlarged aorta, but they aren’t worried about that at the moment either – though because of her particular defects, she will have to be tested for a genetic disorder, Marfan syndrome. She has to have her next cardiology check up at one year old, but otherwise she seems to be blooming.

However, this experience opened my eyes to just how many babies – and children, and teens, and adults – need treatments and surgeries for congenital heart disease, and Leeds Congenital Hearts work miracles for them. The unit is funded by the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund for the invaluable work they do, and it doesn’t bear thinking about that the government nearly closed this unit down. Whether someone’s heart defect is big or small, whether the person is big or small, they do everything they can to save a life.

When we got home and settled, I wanted to give back to the unit, to the nurses, the doctors, the healthcare assistants, everyone who keeps the place going. So I originally set out to make a print anthology of poet friends and exchange it for donations to the Children’s Heart Surgery fund. There was so much interest, and I received so many poems, I had to start a webzine too. People outside of my facebook circle started asking if they could submit, so I opened it up to the world. Now we’ve hit our £1,000 fundraising target, and the webzine – to become a bi-monthly web journal in 2019 – has taken on a life of its own, as a soothing place for poetry that helps our hearts as emotional centres as well.

The site is called Bonnie’s Crew because my fierce little daughter is named after the pirate Anne Bonny. The typical pirate address ‘me hearties’ refers to sailors being ‘of stout heart’ – and some of the stoutest hearts around are the ones that didn’t form quite as expected.

Our Just Giving page can be found here, if anyone feels moved to donate: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/bonnieandcrew but otherwise, please enjoy the wonderful poems!