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A perfect Christmas with their miracle baby Ffion.

Byline: Jessica Flynn

EVERY parent cherishes the first Christmas they spend with their baby, but for Ffion Rose Laverick's family tomorrow will be even more precious.

It was a day her mum and dad did not think they would get to see as little Ffion spent her first few months battling for life after being born with major heart defects.

Ffion was born on July 14 to delighted parents Charlotte Laverick and Brendon McGuinness but, just hours later, the young mum noticed her baby's breathing and feeding was not right. Ffion was rushed to intensive care where it was discovered she had a host of problems with her heart, including several holes and a murmur. "My pregnancy and scans were fine so I had no problems," said Charlotte, 21, from Leckwith, Cardiff.

"Then at 32 weeks, I went into early labour. I was given tablets to stop it developing any further and I was closely monitored until Ffion was born on July 14. When she was born she was blue and didn't cry, she was put under a heater and they kept tapping her until she let out a tiny cry. She weighed 8lb 8ozs."

At 9pm on the day Ffion was born, a nurse took her to the high dependency unit to be monitored after her breathing had not improved, while Charlotte waited, frantic with worry.

"A doctor brought Ffion back to me at 11pm with wires hanging from her feet and a feeding tube on her nose," said Charlotte, a beautician.

"Deep down, I knew there was something seriously wrong with her. That night I kept her close to me on my chest. The nurses were feeding Ffion through the tube in her nose but I felt feeding her was my job and I felt helpless."

The following day a midwife agreed with Charlotte there was something wrong with Ffion's breathing and took her to intensive care. It was then that the first-time mum was told Ffion had a heart murmur.

The youngster underwent a series of echograms and her parents were given the devastating news that their precious daughter would have to undergo two operations on her heart, including open heart surgery.

"When they told me I was in a really bad state," said Charlotte. "I didn't know what to do. When I think back now, that time is a bit of a blur so many things were happening all at once."

Ffion was transferred to Bristol's Children's Hospital from Cardiff's Heath Hospital on July 20.

Heartbreakingly, Charlotte was not allowed to travel with her baby due to the number of medical staff needed to be with her on the journey in case of an emergency.

"Ffion had her first operation when she was nine days old," said Charlotte.

"That was a nightmare for us but because she was a big baby with a decent weight it helped her through the operation. And she's such a fighter."

Ffion was allowed home to Cardiff in August and, in between her operations, had weekly check-ups.

Then her parents received the phone call they had been waiting for: their daughter would undergo her open heart surgery on October 8. Charlotte said: "We were told Ffion's hole was unusual because it was in two chambers and the consultant said he'd never seen a heart like hers before as her arteries were the opposite way round.

"I really wanted to know if she would lead a normal life. We were told if they couldn't do what they wanted, she may need a pacemaker, but thankfully everything went well.

"Signing the consent form for the operation has got to be the worst thing I've ever done.

"When she came out, she was again hooked up to about 18 different machines and they didn't close her chest in case there was a problem overnight and they'd need to operate again."

Although Ffion caught a chest infection which caused her right lung to collapse, the tough youngster is now back at home with her family, who celebrated her christening at St Mary's Church, Canton, Cardiff, on December 6. "That was the first time we were all able to celebrate as a family since she was born," said Charlotte.

"It was a lovely day and great that all the family had a chance to see her."

Now, after her two major operations, Ffion is well on the road to recovery and Charlotte, Brendan and their families are looking forward to spending their first Christmas together.

"She's on medication three times a day but doctors are really pleased with her and have said they'll see her every three months for a check-up, so we're really pleased; it's like an early Christmas present," said Charlotte.

"She's so contented and happy and we're really looking forward to Christmas.

It's going to be a special day; she'll be really spoilt. We didn't think she'd get to see her first Christmas so we're really going to celebrate."

CAPTION(S):

Five-month-old Ffion with mum Charlotte and dad Brendan at her grandparents' house in Riverside, Cardiff, with Ashton. Below, Ffion shortly after she was born
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 24, 2009
Words:852
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