A YOUNGSTER who underwent a life-saving heart operation as a toddler is now a picture of health.
Little Charlie Richardson is lucky to be alive after undergoing emergency surgery as a 14-month-old tot for a hole in the heart.
Still bearing the scar of his surgery, Charlie, now eight, has taken to the mats to show he is feeling just fine.
For the past 12 weeks he has been learning the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at South Shields Fight Factory in Frederick Street, under the guidance of instructor Jamie Berry.
His proud dad Phil, 39, from Julian Street, South Shields, said: “When I think back to what we went through when Charlie was a baby, I wouldn’t have dared to think that one day he would be doing something like this.
“I am so proud of him. Seeing him grappling on the mats is quite emotional.”
Charlie said: “I love it. You learn loads of things like arm locks and different moves. I want to do it when I’m older.”
Six years ago he was admitted to Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, and was diagnosed with a hole in the heart which could have proved fatal had it not been found in time.
The hole was leaking blood into Charlie’s lungs, effectively slowly drowning him in his own blood.
He underwent open-heart surgery, spending four days in intensive care.
His dad, who is a DJ at Kirkpatrick’s in Ocean Road, South Shields, added: “When I found out about the junior BJJ classes, I asked Charlie if he wanted to join and he said yes.
“I didn’t have any concerns with him doing something like this as you can’t wrap people up in cotton wool.
“As long as he is comfortable and enjoys it, that’s all that matters.”
Charlie’s instructor Mr Berry said: “Physically, Charlie keeps up with everyone in the class. If they hadn’t told me about his operation then I wouldn’t have known. He is doing really well.”
The junior BJJ class runs every Monday from 5pm.
n For more information, contact head coach Scott Ramsay on 07722 912767.