Norwich gran celebrates extra lease of life
Norwich grandmother Sandra Smith has recently celebrated her 65th birthday, astounding doctors who said she should have died 61 years ago, at the age of just four. Aaron Curran reports.
Sandra, who lives in Lakenham, was born with Fallots Tetralogy, a condition which meant she had a hole in the heart, an enlarged heart, a leaky pulmonary valve and wrongly placed arteries. Sandra's parents, John and Willy were told that the technology to operate successfully was not available and that she wouldn't live past the age of four.
Sandra was forced to live a very sheltered and inactive childhood and was not able to participate in even the simplest activities. Amazingly, Sandra survived until at the age of 15 when, in November 1961, she underwent major pioneering heart surgery to close the hole in her heart.
After a successful operation, Sandra was told that, with a careful lifestyle, she may be able to lead a normal life. She worked as an assistant manager at a shoe shop and married Robin in 1973.
At the age of 40, Sandra became a Christian but soon suffered another blow when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. However, she gained strength from her new-found faith and was able to look back on difficult times in her life when she came to see that God had helped pull her through.
"Whenever I felt in great pain, I would pray and on many occasions God took the pain away. I had a lot of prayer and encouragement from people in the church and also my husband and family. God sustained me throughout," said Sandra.
Despite the diagnosis and grim outlook, Sandra knew that God would be with her despite having to give up work and returning to the inactive lifestyle she had endured before. Playing a role in her church – City Church in Norwich – as a pastor's secretary and leading small Bible study groups helped Sandra cope with her situation.
Sandra had further operations in 1999 to replace her pulmonary valve and again in 2006 to remove part of her lung.
In 2011 Sandra spent five weeks in hospital after her heart went into attrial fibrillation (AF) meaning her heart was in the wrong rhythm.
A nine-hour procedure followed to correct this. On top of this, she was diagnosed with steroid induced diabetes, her asthma worsened and she continued to suffer with her arthritis, however, she continues to praise God.
Sandra said: "It sounds like I've had a lot of hardship and illness but God has met me at every stage and been faithful to me. Just as Job says in the Bible 'whatever happens I will praise God', because through everything God is still with me. He still chose me and He hasn't finished with me yet!
"There are no words to describe how big our God is and all He does for us. It doesn't matter what happens to me because it enables me to declare that God is who He says He is and will never leave me nor forsake me."
Sandra continually thanks God for the life she now leads, her marriage to Robin, her two children and seven grandchildren.
"People question if I feel let down by the fact that God hasn't healed me but I don't because I know that through my illness He has revealed Himself to me by pulling me through.
"I'm not a person to get depressed about the things I go through because I know there's someone bigger than my illness. Nothing is too difficult for God and I know that He will bring me through. I have full faith in God that he will never let me down," said Sandra.