BRAVE Jack Stevens continues to defy the odds by battling back from nine bouts of surgery - and he’s still only 15 months old.
The Hartlepool youngster, who only has half a functioning heart, has already spent more than six months of his life in a hospital bed.
So far, he has had four open heart surgeries, five other surgeries, suffered a stroke and been resuscitated three times.
But now he’s home and his proud dad Chris Stevens, 30, said: “He is amazing. He is full of smiles and he is getting stronger.”
Jack was born with a condition known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, which means the left side of his heart did not form.
He first featured in the Mail 14 months ago when we told how he needed three stages of a process called the Norwood procedure. It would 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.
He is definitely a little hero when you consider what he has been through. He is a fighter.Ashton Hodge, Jack’s mum
But not everything has gone to plan. He was so small, he needed two temporary procedures to prepare him for the Norwood process because he only weighed 4lbs when the minimum to allow the procedure was twice that.
Then, he had two more for the actual process.
During one operation, surgeons told his dad Chris and mum Ashton Hodge, 27, from the Seaton Carew area, there was a 30 per cent chance he would not survive.
Chris added: “He spent the first four and a half months of his life in hospital and another two months since then, but to see him, you wouldn’t think there was anything wrong with him.”
Jack has already overcome stomach and eating problems and is also recovering from a stroke, which affected the left side of his body.
He has also had to be resuscitated three times, including once last February when he had a cardiac arrest, said mum Ashton.
She added: “He is definitely a little hero when you consider what he has been through.
“He is a fighter.”
Jack was born after a full-term pregnancy, at Newc astle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary on December 10, 2013, weighing just 4lb 4oz. He was immediately transferred to the city’s Freeman Hospital when he was found to have the rare congenital heart defect that affects just one in around 3,500 to 5,000 babies.
Jack becomes the latest entrant in our Best of Hartlepool competition, in the Child of Courage category.
This year’s awards will culminate with a grand finale at the Hardwick Hall in Sedgefield on April 30 this year.
But before then, we needs lots of entries and people have plenty of time to put their community heroes forward.
They have until April 10 to come forward with deserving causes in categories which range from fundraiser of the year to child of courage, and green champion to local hero. After the deadline passes, judges will get together to draw up a shortlist.
For now, we want you to inundate us with entries.