LITTLE Oliver Gleeson was born with half a heart and has spent most of his young life in hospital.
In just 12 months, the Plains Farm fighter has had nine life-saving operations.
Through all the pain, one person has provided the strength and love to get him through – his mum.
Today, the Echo names Joanne Gleeson as Sunderland’s top mum, and winner of our I Love Mum competition.
It has been an agonising 18 months for the 43-year-old, who has had to watch on helplessly as her little boy underwent multiple operations which he was not expected to survive.
A scan at 22 weeks had initially raised concerns that Joanne’s unborn son’s heart had not formed properly.
Medics had suggested the family, including dad Sean, 45, might want to consider the option of a termination.
But resolute Joanne refused.
“Where there is life, there’s hope,” she said.
So Oliver was born eight weeks premature on October 6, 2012, weighing just 4lbs.
Joanne said: “The doctors didn’t expect he would survive.”
After six weeks in Sunderland Royal Hospital, Oliver was transferred to Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital where he had his first of what would eventually become nine operations in just 12 months.
Joanne, who also has a son, Jack, six, added: “Last April, Oliver was put onto a heart bypass machine and it was then he had a stroke.
“It was a total shock; at first I just couldn’t take it all in.
“Through it all, Oliver proved the doctors wrong time after time. He was just a fighter and wouldn’t give up.”
It had initially been hoped that Oliver might be suitable for a heart transplant, but that has now been ruled out as damage to a vital vein means the youngster has been deemed “untransplantable”.
Last October, Oliver’s respiratory system failed and the family were told to prepare themselves for the worst. However, an emergency tracheostomy saved him.
Throughout all his pain, Joanne has been at her little boy’s side.
“It’s been an incredibly difficult year,” she said.
“But it’s wonderful to win this competition – I never win anything.”
The family managed to get Oliver home last Christmas and Joanne has since got into a routine of caring for him while dad Sean, an account manager, goes to work.
“Last Mother’s Day, Oliver was in hospital very ill and we didn’t know if he’d survive, so it will be nice to spend tomorrow as a family, at home.”