Ria, 14, leads protest march over Leicester's Glenfield Hospital heart unit
A 14-year-old campaigner led a march to save a heart unit that saved her life.
Ria Pahwa, of Rushey Mead, Leicester, was born with such a serious heart condition that doctors told her parents she would be dead within hours.
Experts from the children's heart unit at Glenfield Hospital rushed over to Leicester Royal Infirmary and gave Ria life-saving surgery.
If the children's unit moves to Birmingham, as the Government intends, Ria fears other children like her will die.
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Yesterday, she led a march of more than 70 people along Melton Road in Syston, showing support for the children's unit with T-shirts and placards.
They also organised a petition for shoppers in the town centre to sign.
Ria said: "It's an amazing experience for me and great to see so many people. Everyone is coming together.
"I've had seven big heart operations and for the first one, surgeons from Glenfield treated me just after I was born and saved my life."
Ria became a member of the UK Youth Parliament in March and the heart unit will be her biggest campaign during her two-year term.
She said: "If the Youth Parliament can work together I think the Government will reconsider it."
Meera Popat, 34, of Thurnby, who is Ria's aunt, said she was impressed with her niece's achievement.
She said: "She's done an outstanding job and working really hard to keep the unit open because if it wasn't for the unit she wouldn't be here today.
"We're really pleased with the number of people who have come out and we hope it makes a difference."
Georgina Paulson, 35, of Birstall, took part in the protest with her three young children.
She said: "I'm due to give birth to a boy in two weeks and we know he's got heart problems. He's going to need treatment at Glenfield. It would be a huge problem for me if the unit was in Birmingham.
"I found out about the protest on Facebook. I think Ria's remarkable. She's been through a lot and she's such an educated and well-balanced young lady."
Heather Hewing, 63, of Syston, is a former Glenfield patient and joined the protest.
She said: "The children's unit is second-to-none and it's disgraceful they could close it."
To support the Save Our Heart Unit at Glenfield group on Facebook, search for "Ria Pahwa" on the site.
Leslie Hamilton, deputy chair of the Safe and Sustainable Steering Group, which is recommending the Glenfield unit merges with Birmingham, said: "I recognise people have shown a huge loyalty for the hospital in Leicester but pooling surgical expertise means the clinical community can work together."