Brave little Charlie Stokoe is set to find something extra special in her Christmas stocking tomorrow morning after the tot won our Dear Santa competition.
The 22-month-old has endured a nightmare start to life after she was born with craniosynostosis – meaning she had a misshapen head – which needed surgery to prevent her developing brain damage.
At barely a year old last May, doctors had to slice open Charlie’s “bicycle helmet”-shaped head, cutting her from ear to ear, breaking and reshaping the front of her skull.
Now on the mend and set to enjoy her second Christmas surrounded by her loving family, Charlie has today been named as the Echo’s Dear Santa winner.
The Hendon youngster will now receive £250-worth of vouchers from Niramax to go towards gifts of her choice.
Charlie’s devoted mum Jenna, 31, said: “I didn’t even know she had been entered so for her to win is amazing.
“She’s been really brave with everything she’s gone through with all the operations.
“She even had to have another procedure a few months ago to have the wound on her head re-cleaned because she was producing skin cells too quickly.
“But now she’s doing great.”
Born six weeks prematurely on February 17, 2014, when she grew too large for Jenna to be able to safely carry her, medics are still unsure as to what caused Charlie to suffer from the condition.
After being delivered via emergency caesarean section, she was rushed to neonatal intensive care, where she remained for three weeks.
Noticing her unusually shaped skull doctors at Newcastle’s RVI ran a series of MRI and CT scans to ensure she had not been brain damaged.
In June 2014 she was diagnosed with craniosynostosis.
Charlie is set to have a further check-up by medics in January and the family now hope that there will be fewer trips to hospital in the coming months.
“After that next check-up then hopefully she won’t need to be seen again until she is three,” added Jenna who is also stepmum to Kellsey, seven, and Annalea, four.
“The only problem we have is that she is not growing too well for a child of her age, but apart from that she is healthy.
“We as a family are doing OK now that we don’t have to make so many trips to the hospital in Birmingham.
“At one point it seemed like we were there every three to four weeks.”
The family, including Charlie’s dad Colin, 41, are now ready to enjoy a Christmas with the added bonus of Charlie’s competition win.
“It will just be us five tomorrow and then we’ll see our extended family on Boxing Day,” added Jenna.
“Charlie only seems to be interested in the wrapping paper at the minute and not the presents.
“She isn’t too fond of Santa Claus but that’s because she is scared of men due to male surgeons doing her operations.
“She is getting there though and I hope she will warm to things as time goes on.”
l Second place in our Dear Santa competition goes to 12-year-old Lennon McCormick, of Downhill, who developed eczema not long after he was born.
The youngster has also recently had to have an operation to combat septic arthritis in the bones of his foot.
Lennon gets a Kindle HD Fire tablet kindly donated by EcoDen.
The Castle View School pupil has also helped out his mum Vikki, 34, after she experienced her own health problems.
“Lennon’s had a lot of operations ever since he was a little baby and I’ve been poorly myself,” said Vikki.
“He’s seen what I’ve gone through but he’s always been there.
“He’s help me out with things too.
“I didn’t even know he’d been nominated so I’m over the moon that he’s won something.
l Eight-year-old Oliver Talbot won our third-placed prize and gets a super stunt scooter from Cycle World in Sunderland City Centre.
Oliver has cared for his mum who has been in hospital and has had to have an operation this year.
And fourth place in the competition goes to Laila Mae-McAneny, three, who helps to look after her disabled sister, helping out her mum in the process,
Laila gets a £50 gift voucher from Dalton Park.
All winners have also been handed a selection box each thanks to Argos in Hartlepool’s Marina Way.