BRAVE baby Sophie Maxwell has celebrated her first birthday – a day her parents feared she’d never see.
The youngster was born with just half a heart and had open heart surgery just five days after she was born.
After being told to prepare for the worst, her parents Kerryanne and Ian, say they couldn’t be prouder of their brave little girl, who is set to be christened tomorrow at Boldon Independent Methodist Church.
Mrs Maxwell, 28, said: “It was definitely a day we thought we’d never see. Some children with her heart condition only live to be a couple of months old.
“We’ve just been treasuring every day we have with Sophie as we weren’t sure how many we were going to get and we’re just so happy that we’ve been able to celebrate her first birthday.
“She’s just done so well, considering everything she’s been through, and she’s always got a smile on her face.
“Even the nurses from the hospital have said that if she didn’t have a tube in her nose, you’d never know she was a heart baby.”
Sophie, who lives with her mum and dad, as well as big brothers Nathan, three, and Joshua Tansey, eight, in Whiteleas Way, South Shields, was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome – a rare congenital heart condition that leaves the left ventricle severely underdeveloped.
Her first open-heart surgery meant she spent the first three weeks of her life on a ventilator and she was five weeks old before she could go home.
She had a second operation four months later, and has since had countless visits to hospital.
Mrs Maxwell and her husband, customer services advisor with npower, were faced with an agonising decision during the pregnancy.
A routine 20-week scan revealed the baby only had half a heart and the couple were asked to consider a termination.
Mrs Maxwell said: “It’s been a tough year, but I have no doubt that we made the right decision.
“We were told that we could either have Sophie and then just keep her comfortable until she passed away, terminate the pregnancy, or have her and take the treatments and surgeries, and we know we did the right thing – we couldn’t imagine life without her.”
Mr Maxwell, 38, added: “The last year has had its ups and downs and we’re still treasuring every day we have with Sophie.
“The way she’s coped has just been amazing and she’s almost like a poster child for her condition.
“We’re in a Facebook group with people whose kids have the same condition and every time they say their son or daughter is having an operation, we share pictures of Sophie after hers.”
Mrs Maxwell added: “Looking after Sophie is hard work because of everything she needs to have but if I didn’t have her, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.
“She’s our little princess.”
Sophie won a child of courage award at this year’s Pride of South Tyneside Awards.