A SCHOOLBOY spent more than nine years with a hole in his heart before the condition was discovered when his parents thought he had a cold.

James Cable, from Picket Piece, was only given a diagnosis of atrial septal defect after he was taken to a GP by his parents at Christmas last year when he they thought he was getting a chest infection.

Dad Rob, 40, said he and his wife Anna, 38, took him for a check-up which showed he had a murmur in his heart.

James was taken for further tests and X-rays at hospitals in Winchester and Southampton until doctors confirmed he had a hole in his heart.

Rob said: "We got that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you get some bad news.

"This has clearly been there since birth and usually they would hear a hole in the heart but because his hole is a bit bigger his flow of blood makes less sound and there was less pressure."

There is a possibility the hole has developed as part of a genetic condition, which could result in James's six-year-old sister Emma having to undergo tests, along Rob and Anna.

James, aged nine, has yet to have surgery with doctors happy he will be able to live a normal life for now, but if left untreated, his heart would be under more pressure as he gets older.

Rob, a crew manager at Andover Fire Station, said: "It was a bit of a shock, especially as we were told he would need open-heart surgery.

"James has seen first-hand what surgery of this kind is like as his grandad had to have open-heart surgery.

"He's not wanting a huge scar or huge tubes but for now we haven't really talked to him for quite a while about it, we won't until we know when his surgery date is."

For now, James is running around with his friends, but to the surprise of his parents he has spoken about his illness with his classmates.

Rob added: "We had a parents' evening and his teacher said on one show-and-tell session he, off his own back, decided to stand up and say what is happening to him."

To raise money for families experiencing the same situation and others with heart problems Rob ran the London Marathon on 22 April.

Rob raised £1,000 which will be split between the British Heart Foundation and the Fire Fighters Charity.

He said: "It was a hard slog, but I kept thinking if people have got through a lot of worse things in life then I am going to get through this.

"It was a very emotional thing when you realise what kids are going through in life. It does bring a lump to your throat. I felt like I was running for James."