Meeting Estelle Dixon on the shores of Old Dunsborough Beach, you’d be forgiven to think she’s your average 11-year-old, cuddling her dog Astro, running around full of energy, and chattering away about her school day. But Estelle is not your average 11-year-old — and not because she’s intelligent beyond her years, charismatic, and with the confidence of a woman twice her age — she is living with Wolffe-Parkinson-White syndrome. WPWS is a congenital heart disease which causes children to be born with two electrical pathways inside their heart instead of one, causing a rapid heartbeat. Congenital heart disease research windfall Health guidelines raise the exercise rate for youngsters with heart defects More often than not, the heart condition is not life-threatening. It more commonly affects boys and men, and is usually diagnosed later in a child’s life, but in true Estelle fashion, she goes against the grain. Being one of the three in every 1000 people WPWS affects, Estelle’s rapid heart often reaches 300 beats per minute for long periods of time, causing her to faint. Despite this huge and life-altering part of her everyday life, when asked about herself, it’s the last thing she says defines her. “I like comedy, I like telling jokes, I like making people laugh, I like laughing myself,” she said. “I like art, music, I play piano, drums, I sing and a little bit of ukulele, and I used to play the French horn. “And I’ve got a heart condition called Wolffe-Parkinson-White syndrome. “It’s scary because I can faint, but that’s not the worst thing that could happen either — last year I found out that this was not destroying my heart but it’s hurting it, so we decided to get surgery.” Needing a complicated ablation procedure at the height of the coronavirus pandemic last year, doctors used radio frequency energy to try to destroy the extra pathway — a tricky surgery owing to the extra pathway’s location being in a difficult, “slippery” part of the heart. Estelle’s small stature brought no benefits to the surgery. Estelle, pictured, was diagnosed at birth, but the syndrome became serious at just eight years old after she collapsed in front of a fireplace, avoiding a more serious consequence by centimetres. To make matters worse, her original surgery didn’t fix the problem and Estelle is set to go back into hospital this year. Estelle also cannot play sport anymore as a result of her condition — a travesty for many 11-year-olds. However, not one to get down about the little things, Estelle has leaned into the condition, stepping up into an ambassador role for the HeartKids Foundation and debuting FUSION, her superhero alter ego in an effort to spread awareness and educate her peers. “I’m lucky because there are people out there who have it so much worse,” she said. “For ages I didn’t want to talk about it, but after I talked about it at school and saw it helped people understand, I wanted to do more. “Because my heartbeat goes so fast, it’s why I chose a mix of (superheroes) Flash and Shazam. Shazam is really strong and bulletproof, I am bulletproof because of my heart — it’s where I get my strength and speed from.” It’s this alter ego Estelle will be channelling today at a Hero for HeartKids event in an effort to raise money to support children and families with heart disease. As ambassador, the pint-size superhero is leading the way and encouraging her school and South West workplaces to “be a hero” and dress up, and continue to support the service. Parents Kali and Tom said HeartKids had been key in supporting them through the tough ordeal, both financially and emotionally. “The stress and worry we continue to face is real, the first surgery was so anxiety-inducing,” Mrs Dixon said. “We had to drive back and forth to the city often and we were very lost and concerned when we arrived at the hospital but HeartKids were a real game changer with their support as well as providing food vouchers and activities for Estelle. “We have a good support of family and friends but it’s really different having someone who knows what you’re going through, not having to explain the details, and helping guide us through what was a very overwhelming experience. “We went from never having to even give Estelle antibiotics before to meeting anaesthetists, specialists, cardiologists, all of that so to have someone there who could help navigate that and help emotionally was invaluable. “In WA all the support workers are either parents or close family relatives of a child with congenital heart disease so they have this real connection, and we didn’t even realise we needed it until it was there.” Proud as punch of their little superhero, Mrs Dixon said the family unit is taking each day at a time, focusing on ensuring Estelle has the best and most normal life possible despite her condition. The family, under the lead of Estelle, is encouraging their community and the wider WA population to help support children living with heart diseases. Not just by dressing up as superheroes this Friday but helping fundraise throughout the year to ensure the vital service which helped them get through a scary time continue to help others. HeartKids chief executive Fiona Ellis said as the only national not-for-profit organisation solely focussed on supporting families impacted by childhood heart disease, HeartKids was on a mission to reach 65,000 Australians battling various heart conditions. “HeartKids is there to ensure they can live the most fulfilling life possible and reach their personal goals,” she said. “Hero for HeartKids is an opportunity for the Australian community to harness their superhuman powers and be a positive force, directly helping seriously ill children and their families.” Money raised by participants during Be A Hero For HeartKids will offer a critical lifeline for families with children undergoing heart surgery, with hospital support services, a helpline, parent networking programs and much needed financial support for those doing it tough.Search for Estelle Dixon at hero4heartkids.org.au to donate.