THE parents of brave baby Sophie Maxwell are aiming for a happy New Year they thought they would never have with her.
The 19-week-old tot spent Christmas Day with her parents, Kerry Anne and Ian, and her big brothers, Nathan, three, and Joshua Tansey, aged seven.
Sophie was born with just half of her heart, and underwent a major operation five days after being born.
She now faces two more operations and possibly a heart transplant, but all that was put to one side as the family enjoyed their first Christmas together and looked forward to 2014. Mrs Maxwell, 27, of Whiteleas Way, South Shields, said: “When we first found out about Sophie’s condition, we knew there was a chance that she might not even survive her first surgery.
“So when we were told that we could take her home, we began looking forward to these big events, and every day we get to spend with Sophie is precious.”
Sophie suffers from hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare congenital heart condition that leaves the left ventricle severely under-developed.
Her first open-heart operation meant she spent the first three weeks of her life on a ventilator, and she was five weeks old before she could return home with her parents.
Sophie now faces another operation when she is a year old, and another when she is three or four to try to get the right side of her heart to do the work of the left.
The challenges began for the family even before Sophie was born, and Mrs Maxwell and her husband, a customer services advisor with npower, were faced with an agonising decision during the pregnancy.
A routine 20-week scan revealed the heart condition, and the couple were asked to consider a termination. They decided to go ahead with the birth, and Sophie was born at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary on August 20, weighing 8lb 9.5oz.
She was immediately transferred to the Children’s Heart Unit at the city’s Freeman Hospital. Mrs Maxwell said: “Sophie is doing fantastic at the minute, and this is the longest we’ve had her home without her needing to go into hospital.
“She normally has an appointment every two weeks, but now she hasn’t been back for six weeks.
“Things are really looking up.
“It’s not over, obviously, and we won’t know when Sophie’s next operation is until we go to the hospital in January.
“But she’s still a little smiler, and she’s very happy in herself.”
She added: “We went for our Christmas dinner at the Sand Dancer pub in South Shields, so we got to relax and spend the day together, rather than having to cook and do the washing up. We’re just going to enjoy spending as much time together as we can.”