Mother creates app for people caring for children with health conditions

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Jessica Barker

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Maisie Barkee has hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare and serious condition

A mother has designed an app to help people caring for children with health conditions to make connections.

Jessica Barker’s five-year-old daughter has a rare congenital heart disease and said raising a child with additional needs can make you feel “isolated”.

She said she struggled to find people who understood what her family were going through.

Ms Barker said she hoped her free Friendili app would help others combat loneliness.

A few days after birth, her daughter Maisie was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which means the left lower pumping chamber of the heart does not develop properly.

She has so far undergone three heart operations.

“She has been through an awful lot, but if look at her, you wouldn’t know she was so ill,” Mrs Barker said.

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Jessica Barker

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Maisie was diagnosed with the condition at just a few days old

Originally from Leeds, the family moved to Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands so Maisie could be cared for by specialists at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

“My experience was so different from [other people who had a baby at the same time],” Mrs Barker said.

“They were having play dates, going to baby groups and things, but my baby was at home with an oxygen tube, we were not able go out much in case she caught a bug.

“I wanted some way of finding someone near me who I could meet up with for a coffee who understood what we were going through.

“But there wasn’t anything like that, and that was when the seed was planted.”

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Jessica Barker

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Mrs Barker said she was inspired to design the app from her own experiences raising Maisie

“I know thousands of people who are feeling exactly like they are the only ones in the world going through something when that’s not the case,” Mrs Barker said.

She said she found Facebook groups too “clinical” and people on them were not necessarily from her area.

Mrs Barker said Friendili was available to download for free for iOS, and will be available for Android devices in the near future.

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Jessica Barker

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Maisie, described by her mum as “a real, little character”, is also a big sister to Florrie

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