A LITTLE girl who had a serious heart condition is running a mini marathon to help others with “special hearts”.

Charlotte Howard had open heart surgery when she was just nine weeks old after she was diagnosed with a coarctation, a narrowing of the aorta artery, which can lead to heart failure if left untreated.

The eight-year-old’s heart condition was missed in antenatal scans when she was born, and her parents Ian and Ingrid were devastated at her diagnosis.

Charlotte’s mum Ingrid Marson said: “Our world fell apart.

“We went from worrying about feeding issues and sleep to worrying she may never wake up from the surgery.

“The day we dropped her off in her baby-sized operating gown was the worst day of my life.”

Ingrid said she and Ian faced an agonising six-hour wait while the operation took place.

After a period in intensive care, Charlotte, who lives in Haywards Heath, was able to return home.

Now she is running the Brighton Marathon Mini Mile under nines’ race on Saturday, April 18.

The Great Walstead School pupil is raising money for Evelina London Children’s Hospital and Echo, a charity which supports children and young people with heart conditions and their families.

Charlotte has been training for the Mini Mile race and took part in the Haywards Heath Junior Park Run in Victoria Park.

The eight-year-old said she wants to raise money “to help children with special hearts because it helps them get better and they can feel well.

“Instead of having a stressful life, they will have a happy life ahead of them.”

Her online crowdfunding campaign has raised £2,371 so far, which is 79 per cent of her £3000 target.

Ingrid said meeting other families who had children with heart conditions through Echo really helped them come to terms with what had happened.

According to the charity, congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect, and affects just under one in every 100 babies born in the UK.

Samantha Johnson, chief executive of Echo, said: “I am delighted Charlotte has chosen to help other children with special hearts.

“We know it will make a massive difference to others in the Echo heart community who are going through difficult times during diagnosis, treatment and beyond. A massive thank you to Charlotte for all your efforts, and we hope you have lots of fun.”

To make a donation, go to virginmoneygiving.com/CharlotteMiniMile.