Peterborough family of boy with 'half a heart' make Christmas appeal
The family of a baby boy born with half a heart is appealing for a very special Christmas present this year.
Four-month-old Benjamin Rayner has hypoplastic left heart syndrome and is waiting for a transplant.
Mum Ashley Hardy, from Peterborough, will spend Christmas Day at her son's bedside in the high dependency unit of Newcastle's Freeman Hospital, hoping a donor may soon come forward.
She said: "He is my little warrior. I will never give up fighting."
Ms Hardy, 31, makes the 200-mile (326km) trip up north every week in rotation with her fiancé Davy to keep Benjamin company through his gruelling treatment regime.
The little boy was diagnosed with the heart condition in the womb at 24 weeks' gestation. The disease, caused when the heart fails to develop properly, affects the organ's ability to pump oxygen.
His mother - who also has two daughters, aged eight and five - said Benjamin was a "miracle baby" after she endured nine miscarriages.
He was born on 1 August at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle - and was immediately whisked away by specialists after what Ms Hardy called a "one-minute cuddle".
The baby was referred soon after into the care of Freeman's specialist paediatric heart unit. He has undergone two open heart operations already.
Ms Hardy said his condition effectively meant he was surviving on "half a heart" and desperately needed a transplant.
"I have my down days but I will never give up fighting for Benjamin," she said, "and spreading awareness of organ donation.
"He is a happy, bubbly little boy with the most gorgeous eyelashes. He is my little warrior."
NHS Blood and Transplant has revealed there are currently 298 people in the UK spending Christmas waiting for a new heart - including 33 children.