GEORGE Johnson is only 18 months old but this week he will have his 31st crucial operation.
Doctors are still trying to diagnose exactly what is wrong with the brave battler, who keeps smiling through his pain.
Now his fight has inspired Wearsiders to get behind a charity fight night to raise funds that could help George’s treatment.
The youngster is fed by a tube into his heart because he can’t eat or drink.
He may eventually go to America for specialist treatment and the white collar boxing event at Rainton Meadows Arena on October 21 will help his family get the equipment they need to give George a better life.
Dad Neil, 30, from Springwell, said: “It’s really inspiring to know that people are supporting you like this.
“The doctors are still trying to establish the precise illness that George has. He’s 18 months old and he must have been in hospital for 12 to 14 months of that.
“At the moment, there isn’t a cure. Nothing, from his swallow down into his gut, works. He is attached to a machine 14 hours a day that feeds into his blood.
“We want to give him as long a life as possible and the best quality of life that we can.
“We know of a specialist unit over in America, in Boston, that might be a future option, but regardless of that, George is going to need a lot of support through his life.”
Neil’s wife Emma, also 30, gave up work to look after their son. The couple also have a daughter, two-year-old Ava, who is healthy.
“We’ve had some hot weather in the last couple of weeks and it’s been torture seeing Ava enjoying ice creams when George isn’t allowed to,” said Neil, whose friends Neil Moan and Ryan Dunn have volunteered to take part in the boxing event.
George’s story now means the fight night is over-subscribed. The participants, most of whom have never boxed, have just started training at Sunderland’s Olympian Gym.
The family are currently living in Wallasey, on The Wirral, after work took Neil away from Sunderland. He is waiting to be admitted again to London’s famous Great Ormond Street Hospital this week for further operations and tests.
But he said: “I’ve still got a strong network of friends in Sunderland and they have offered us a lot of care and support. It means the world to us.
“People always ask how we cope with this, but he’s our son, we want him to get well and we’ll go to the end of the world if we have to.”
A Twitter profile featuring George’s story – _TeamGeorge – has attracted star followers including TV presenter Ben Sheppard, singer Peter Andre, former cricketer Freddie Flintoff and Sunderland AFC footballer Anton Ferdinand.
A Team George fan page has also been set up on Facebook.
Mark Gorman, organiser of the boxing event, said: “When we heard George’s story we had to support the family.
“We’ve had more people come forward to take part than ever before and it must be because they’ve been touched by what this little lad and his family are going through.
“Our white collar boxing shows have already raised more than £55,000 for charities and we’d love to hit the £100,000 mark.”