IT WAS a day they feared they may never be able to celebrate together as a family.
However, Chanel Murrish and her loved ones have savoured a special Christmas after the battling baby girl defied medical odds.
Chanel was born with only half a working heart, a condition so rare that at one stage doctors would not give any percentage of whether she would make it, because the chances were so slim.
Since the discovery was made during her mum Fay’s 20-week scan, she has made medical history by becoming one of the youngest open-heart surgery patients in the world.
After 10 rounds of theatre, including three lots of open-heart surgery, her loved ones have enjoyed a first Christmas together.
Fay said: “She is our miracle and smiles through everything.
“She’s the biggest inspiration we have ever known and teaches everyone around her to always have faith.
“We couldn’t wait for Christmas as a complete family, it’s definitely extra special being Chanel’s first Christmas.
“This time last year we didn’t dare think of special times of the year like this as we didn’t know what the future held for Chanel.
“We feel very lucky and extremely blessed.
“It’s been the best Christmas ever.”
Fay, 25, and Micheal, 28, are already parents to Chase, four, and Cole, two, and suffered the heartache of four miscarriages before Chanel.
Medics at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary discovered the tot has Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome with intact septum, an added complication which meant drugs to help her heart function when she was delivered would not work, with a major problem with the flow of blood in her heart.
They told Fay she could have a termination or allow her to be born naturally, and pass away in their arms.
The Seaham couple pushed for a third option, which was to have Chanel delivered by Caesarean at the Freeman Hospital’s cardiac theatre, followed by rounds of surgical procedures to give her the best chance of living.
The initial 20 per cent survival rate they were given dropped to the point doctors would not give any odds because the chances of her making it past birth were so low.
In addition to undergoing operations since her birth on February 24, she has overcome a host of other problems.
She has spent time on an external pacemaker, had a stroke, and also suffered damage to her vocal chords after being on life support several times, which meant she had a silent cry for two months, and had to be revived using shock paddles.
Now, the family are marking their longest time away from hospital at four months, but have returned to the ward which helped their baby live, to hand out presents to families facing Christmas in its care.
Fay added: “The whole year has been tough on Chase and Cole as well, having had a split family, with us spending four months at hospital.
“They only ever had mam or dad with them at a time, never us both together, as one of us would be at hospital and the other at home, ensuring all three of our children had one parent with them at all times to keep things as normal as possible for them.
“All three of them have definitely been at the very top of Santa’s good list this year.”
Chanel will need more surgery in future, with the next stage expected between three and five years old, and will one day need a heart transplant.
The family has raised £3,000 for the CHUF heart unit at the Freeman Hospital.
More details can be found via facebook.com/ChanelMurrishHLHS.