Footy-mad Ethan Blackburn nets Leeds United visit on anniversary of third open heart surgery

Ethan Blackburn meets Leeds United stars Tyler Roberts and Patrick Bamford.
Ethan Blackburn meets Leeds United stars Tyler Roberts and Patrick Bamford.

He’s the little Leeds United fan whose bravery and determination epitomises the club’s famed mantra of ‘keep fighting’.

Ethan Blackburn, six, was born with a condition called pulmonary valve stenosis and has undergone three rounds of open heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary during his young life.

Ethan Blackburn at Elland Road.

Ethan Blackburn at Elland Road.

The first operation was carried out when he was just five months old, with the most recent taking place a year ago.

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And the anniversary of that last op was marked in champion style last weekend as Ethan attended his first ever game at Elland Road.

The youngster met players including Barry Douglas, Patrick Bamford, Tyler Roberts and Gaetano Berardi on a special pre-match tour of the ground that was arranged as part of United’s charity link-up with the LGI-based Children’s Heart Surgery Fund (CHSF).

Ethan was joined at the game by his dad Marc, uncle Liam and cousin Lucas, who are also keen Leeds fans.

Ethan Blackburn with Leeds United player Mateusz Klich.

Ethan Blackburn with Leeds United player Mateusz Klich.

Marc, 34, from Castleford, said: “We’re very appreciative of what the club did.

“The players were great with Ethan - when he met Barry Douglas, he told him he should be called Big Bad Barry, after a fish in [TV cartoon] Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom.

“That seemed to go down well!

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“We’re incredibly proud of Ethan - he’s a bit of a character, as you can probably tell by the pictures from Saturday.

Ethan Blackburn in the LGI after undergoing open heart surgery,

Ethan Blackburn in the LGI after undergoing open heart surgery,

“If you see him, then you would never think he had heart surgery last year.”

Marc added: “The exposure that the club is giving the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund is fantastic.

“You never think your child is going to be one who needs a heart operation, you think it happens to other people.

“It’s only when it does happen to you that you realise what amazing work charities like this do.”

United are aiming to provide new equipment such as life support and dialysis machines on the back of their partnership with the CHSF.

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Other funds raised will go towards the refurbishment of the CHSF family unit at the LGI.

A United spokeswoman said: “The charity partnership with the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund is all about raising much-needed funds to purchase life-saving equipment for young heart heroes, just like Ethan, and to support families through some of the hardest times they’re likely to face.”

An online donations page can be found by searching for ‘all leeds all heart’ on the Just Giving website.