Smurf Baby’s first birthday

Bridget McGinty and John Gray pictured with children Eunan and wee John. INBM18-14
Bridget McGinty and John Gray pictured with children Eunan and wee John. INBM18-14

A Rasharkin tot who was born with a severe heart condition is celebrating his first birthday today!

At just 14 days old little John Gray underwent two stint operations and recently received open heart surgery to get a heart and lung bypass operation which lasted over eight hours.

John's blue nose was one of the signs of his heart condition. The nurses in the hospital nicnamed him Smurf Baby. INBM18-14

John's blue nose was one of the signs of his heart condition. The nurses in the hospital nicnamed him Smurf Baby. INBM18-14

Nicknamed the Smurf Baby by nurses due to his blue nose caused by the lack of oxygen, John is now a chubby, healthy little boy who has been given a new lease of life.

Speaking to his mummy Bridget McGinty she explained how, thanks to the help of the medical professionals and a Northern Ireland charity, her family are now looking to a bright future.

“When John was born he was like any normal wee boy and we were a happy little family,” she told the Times.

“However after two days of being at home we noticed that John couldn’t catch his breath when he was lying down and his little nose was blue. But we just thought he maybe had a congestion or something simple. But after two weeks the midwife weighed him and noticed he was going a dusty blue colour whenever she put him on his back. She realised he wasn’t getting enough oxygen and rush us to the Causeway Hospital. There medics worked on him for over seven hours. Both his daddy (John) and I were at our wits end and going out of our minds. We had no idea what the problem was.

John gets a new least of life after having open heart surgery in February. INBM18-14

John gets a new least of life after having open heart surgery in February. INBM18-14

“Once he was stable he was moved to Belfast City Children’s ward and it was there they confirmed he had a heart condition called Tetralogy Of Fallot. They kept him in Royal Belfast Hospital for nearly two days before an air ambulance took him to Birmingham Children’s Hospital so he could have the stint procedure.

“He wasn’t even three weeks old and had been nicknamed by the nurses in Birmingham the ‘Smurf Baby’ because of his blue nose. He was so tiny and we really began to fear the worse.”

However John pulled through not just one but two stint procedures as he returned to Birmingham in November to have the second operation.

Unfortunately John wasn’t out of the woods yet and last February he returned to Birmingham and underwent open heart surgery to get a heart and lung bypass.

“The whole thing was so traumatic, not just for John and us but also his four year old brother Eunan,” Bridget explained. “The operation was meant to last three and a half hours however there were minor complications and it took over eight hours. Both his daddy and I thought we were going to burst with worry, nothing can prepare you for the total fear and emotion - our hearts were breaking.

“But our wee man pulled through and you should see him now! You honestly wouldn’t recognise him as the same child. He’s absolutely fantastic. He’s cubby, eating like mad, crawling and even trying to walk. The operation has given him, and us, a new lease of life.”

Not only praising all the expert care he has received, Bridget would also like to raise awareness of the condition and the importance of a local charity which was their ‘lifeline’.

She added: “I want to raise awareness to other parents of this condition. The scans of John when he was in the womb did show that there could be a heart condition but as nothing was later mention I presumed that it had rectified itself. But that wasn’t the case and our world fell apart.

“However the Children’s Heartbeat Trust, a Northern Ireland charity based in Belfast Royal Children’s Hospital, came to our rescue not only with the financial aspect but also offering emotional support. Without them I don’t know what we would have done.

“They arranged the flights to and from Birmingham as well as other travel arrangements which had to be self-funded. We had never flown before and all of a sudden we were thrown into a tiny air ambulance with our little 14 day old boy in a baby pod which looked like a glass coffin.

“However no matter what time of the day, volunteers from the charity was never far away offering help, advice and a friendly ear. They really were the lifeline that kept us strong during the worse times.

“Looking back I can’t believe how far we have come in such a short time. To be celebrating John’s first birthday today (Tuesday, April 29) is a miracle and something we never dared to hope or dream of. However it’s here and we would like to say a massive thank you to all the doctors and nurses, family and friends as well as the Children’s Heartbeat Trust for making this possible. Finally I like to thank our little boy for being so strong and making our life complete.”