LITTLE Karl Smith’s cheeky smile hides the heart problems that have had him in and out of hospital for almost two years.
The 21-month-old, of Barnard Crescent, Hebburn, was born eight weeks early by emergency Caesarean section, weighing just 1lb 15oz, in July 2011.
Mum Kayleigh, 27, was rushed into hospital after a scan showed there were problems.
The tot was diagnosed with two congenital heart defects – tetralogy of fallot and pulmonary atresia – and placed on a life support machine.
Since then, he has had two hernias removed – one from his groin and another from his navel – and has also had an artificial artery put into his heart.
He is fed through a tube directly into his stomach and will need more operations on the artificial artery as he grows.
Karl has also had a tracheostomy, in which a tube is inserted into an opening at the front of the neck to assist with breathing.
His dad Chris Parkin has nominated his son for the title of child of courage in the Pride of South Tyneside Awards.
The 31-year-old said: “Karl has spent more than half of his life in and out of hospital.
“He has had many operations and will have more throughout his life, yet everyone who has worked with Karl or has had the pleasure of meeting him is shocked to see such a happy, pleasant, outgoing little boy, for what he’s been through.” Karl has only recently been discharged from Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary after taking ill at home when his oxygen levels dropped.
Kayleigh, also mum to James, eight, and Katie, five, said: “He was five minutes away from going into intensive care, but he pulled himself back round again.
“He’s going to need operations throughout his childhood, but it’s what he knows now. I think that’s why he’s such a happy little boy. He gets on with it, which makes our life easier.”
The Pride of South Tyneside Awards, organised by the Gazette, South Tyneside Council and the Customs House in South Shields, recognise the borough’s unsung heroes.
Ten awards will be handed out at the Temple Park Centre in South Shields on Sunday evening.