IT’S been a big day for little Kayleigh Fitzpatrick.
The four-year-old proved a real trooper as she prepared for her first day at school.
Born weighing just 1lb 7oz, Kayleigh has spent her life undergoing a series of operations.
But today she was pulling on her school uniform and joining hundreds of other Wearside children on their first day of school.
Mother Diane Grieves nearly died on the operating table twice when Kayleigh was delivered by emergency Caesarean section, 14 weeks premature at Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Kayleigh spent six months in hospital battling through a series of operations.
But now things are looking up, and the youngster was starting her first day at St Bede’s RC Primary School, in Usworth, Washington.
Diane who suffered a serious pregnancy-related illness, said: “She went to nursery at the same place and she’s been so bored over the six weeks, she just keeps shouting for her friends.
“She’s going to love school and she looks so lush in her little uniform.
“She’s still in two to three-years clothes, so it’s hard to find stuff for her. But she looks so cute.”
The 33-year-old added: “The hardest thing for me is coping with the fact that she’s going to be away from me all day, because she’s been attached to my hip since she was born.
“Even when she went to nursery I stayed with her for the first seven weeks until everyone got used to her.
“But even then it was only a couple of hours - I don’t know what I’m going to do without her all day.”
After being born Kayleigh had to have heart surgery because one of the valves was still open, and laser eye treatment.
Then at two-and-a-half months her lungs collapsed, leaving her with chronic lung disease, which meant she needed an oxygen tube to breathe.
She was also struck down by a severe infection and then, because of problems with ventilation, she had a tracheotomy, which involves creating an opening in the front of the windpipe through the neck, where a tube is inserted to help with breathing.
But now, Kayleigh is well down the road to recovery and has had her tracheotomy tube removed.
“She had the tracheotomy because one side of her vocal cords was paralysed,” said Diane, of Wood Terrace, Concord. “But that has corrected itself.
“Her speech had come on leaps and bounds and she’s a right little talker - in fact, there’s times I wish she had a mute button.
“It’s amazing. To me her speech is brilliant, but I think maybe to other people who don’t know her as well she still might be a little difficult to understand.
“But I just never thought that I’d one day be asking her to give me five minutes peace.
“She’s a right little cheeky monkey as well - she told me to shut my mouth the other day.”