DOCTORS feared he wouldn’t survive and then warned he might never leave hospital.
But today little battler Lyall Cookward celebrates his second birthday. It will be his first ever at home as last year he was in intensive care at Leeds General Infirmary.
Lyall, who was born with a heart defect and a rare condition affecting his airway, is permanently on a ventilator so he can breathe.
Despite that, he is a happy, inquisitive tot who is learning sign language and loves being with other children.
His mums Steph Ward and Sharron Cook said they were delighted and emotional about him reaching two.
Steph added: “Last year he had his first birthday in intensive care and his future was very uncertain at that point.
“This has a certain poignancy to it. Each time we hit a milestone we think ‘we have made it this far’.”
At his party today will be other youngsters Lyall met when he was in LGI as well as medics, including from the children’s heart surgery unit which is currently under threat. Steph and Sharron have been vocal supporters of the Save our Surgery campaign.
“As we reach his second birthday we are eternally grateful to heart surgeon Kevin Watterson and the whole team at LGI. They could deal with all of Lyall’s conditions under one roof,” Steph, from Chapel Allerton, Leeds, said.
“We never gave up on Lyall, the medical staff never gave up on him and we won’t give up on this campaign.”
Steph was pregnant with Lyall, who has Down’s Syndrome, when his heart condition was picked up. Three weeks after he was born, he went into heart failure and had to undergo surgery, though there was a 50 per cent chance he wouldn’t survive. He pulled through and had further open heart surgery last January, however afterwards he developed breathing problems because of a condition called broncheomalacia.
For six months he was in intensive care before he stabilised on the ventilator and could go home to be with brothers Dan, 15, and Max, 11.
He must be monitored constantly as he could die within minutes if his breathing tube comes out and cannot be reinserted.
Doctors are hoping to start reducing Lyall’s reliance on the machine so he might go for short periods without it.
* To support the campaign to keep children’s heart surgery in Leeds, log on to www.chsf.org.uk or call 0113 3925907. To comment on the plans, visit: www.specialised services.nhs.uk