TINY Jack Stevens clings to life just days after being born with a heart defect.
Now, at only a month old, the Hartlepool baby has already had two intricate operations to help control a rare heart condition.
Before he even starts school it is expected that he will need three rounds of open-heart surgery.
Medics at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital’s Children’s Heart Unit have been providing round-the-clock care for Jack, while his frantic parents Chris Stevens and Ashton Hodge keep a bedside vigil.
Ashton, 25, who works for the town’s Harbour Women’s Refuge and engineer Chris, 29, were told the devastating news that Jack has hypoplastic left heart syndrome after a routine scan prior to his birth, meaning their baby would only have half a functioning heart.
The couple were told the news at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, but they were seen by experts from the Freeman and Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI), who explained more about the condition.
Ashton said: “It was just nerve-wracking when we were told, we were told at Hartlepool but had to wait a week to speak to the doctors in Newcastle. We just wanted to know what was happening.”
Chris said: “When we were told about the condition, it was awful.
“We were told there was something wrong and it involved a valve not forming properly. There was a one in 3,500 chance of it happening.
“We are quite anxious and worried as it’s probably one of the worst congenital heart diseases there is.
“Although it’s been a difficult thing, we have just tried to stay positive all the time.”
Jack was born after a full-term pregnancy, at the RVI on December 10, weighing just 4lb 4oz.
He was immediately transferred to the Freeman, where he has remained ever since, with his worried parents spending Christmas there and only travelling home to Hartlepool once since his birth.
At just a week old, Jack underwent an operation for a temporary procedure involving putting bands around his pulmonary artery to reduce the blood flow to his body and redirecting blood back to his heart.
Last Friday, when he was exactly a month old, he had another temporary operation to insert a line into his heart to prepare him for the future procedures.
Chris said as Jack is so tiny he is too small for the full procedure, and his son is being “fed up” in the meantime.
In a few weeks, once he is big enough, he will have the first of three stages of a Norwood procedure which will see surgeons stopping his heart and the function taken over by a heart-lung machine and a shunt being used to help pump blood into the aorta.
The second stage is expected to be done when he is six months old and then when he is four or five years old.
Chris said: “At the moment he is just so chilled out, he never cries – he is so brave.
“We have had ups and downs but we haven’t really let it get to us too much. What will be will be.”
Ashton added: “We just take every day as it comes.”