A brave little girl is today celebrating a day her parents feared she’d never see – her third birthday.
Sophie Maxwell is marking the milestone while her wait for a heart transplant continues.
The youngster, from Whiteleas Way, South Shields, was born with hypoplastic left-heart syndrome, a rare congenital heart condition that leaves the left ventricle severely underdeveloped.
Before she was even born, Sophie’s parents Kerryanne and Ian, were told of her condition and asked to consider terminating the pregnancy.
Sophie, who is little sister to Nathan Maxwell and Joshua Tansey, has been through open-heart surgeries, countless hospital visits, and now faces an agonising wait for a donor heart, but throughout it all, the tot has had a smile on her face.
Kerryanne said: “We feel very lucky that she’s still here, especially with us being told at Christmas that she needs a heart transplant.
“She’s come a long way in the last three years, especially considering that the doctors said she might not even survive when she was born.
“We feel extremely lucky that she’s still with us and that her regular check-ups are showing that nothing is getting worse.”
The family is waiting for the phone call telling them that doctors have found a heart for Sophie.
Kerryanne said: “We’re just waiting for that phone call and it could come at any time. As soon as a heart becomes available the doctors will call, and day or night we’ll have to get to the hospital.”
Sophie, who attends Ashfield Nursery in the grounds of South Tyneside Hospital, is set to be spoilt rotten today.
Kerryanne said: “We had a day out at Beamish yesterday and we’re having a pirates and princesses party today.
“We can’t believe Sophie is three and that she’s coping so well with everything she’s been through.
“She goes to nursery every day now from 9.30am to 12.30pm and she absolutely loves it.
“We’re starting to look forward to next year and thinking about what school she’s going to go to.
“Obviously we’ll need to find one that can support her needs and look for the signs if she needs help.
“She can’t walk very far because she gets out of breath because her heart has to work harder, so she uses a disability buggy a lot of the time.
“We’re really looking to the future now.”