A WEE boy has defied medical opinion and is all set to start school.
Alfie McAusland was born at just 28 weeks with his main arteries in the wrong place, a large hole in his heart, a narrowing heart valve and without blood vessels connected to his main pumping chamber.
Doctors, who had never encountered the combination of defects before, advised heartbroken mum Natalie and dad Chris to let the 2lb 6oz baby die naturally as he was too small to survive surgery.
However, they refused to let him go and, at eight months, he underwent a 15-hour operation to rewire his heart.
He then faced a long road to recovery as he battled recurrent chest infections.
However, now aged five, Alfie, from Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, is due to start Abercrombie Primary School with his twin brother Blair.
The couple said it meant the world to them to see their wee fighter reach such an important milestone.
Natalie said: “It’s a world away from where we started. Doctors told us to let him slip away quietly.
“To be faced with that but be sitting here five years later waiting for him to go to school with his brother is more than we could have hoped for.”
Alfie spent six weeks on a ventilator following his open heart surgery.
Chris, who served with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders before working as a private contractor in Iraq, said the surgery was terrifying for him and Natalie. He said: “It was 15 hours but it felt like 15 years.”
Alfie was left with lung damage and spent a lot of time over the next two years undergoing physiotherapy as well as being given steroids and antibiotics.
And he was diagnosed with diplegic cerebral palsy at two years old, when it became clear his developmental delays were due to more than just his long recovery from surgery.
As a result he walks with a frame and has to use a wheelchair for long distances. But that doesn’t stop the bubbly wee boy living life to the full.
Last October he did the toddler dash at the Great Scottish Run. He also loves fishing, football, basketball and spending time with his pet Labrador, Poppy.
At home, Alfie happily scampered around giggling and playing his favourite Star Wars console game.
When asked what he was looking forward to most, he said: “The gym . . . and Play-Doh!”
Natalie, 37, said: “There’s nothing Alfie won’t try.”
She added there was a chance that Alfie might have learning difficulties as a result of his condition but appeared to be on a par with his peers for now.
He may also face further surgery around the time he starts high school.
But to help give him the best chance in life they can, his family are raising £15,000 for him to undergo a new form of therapy they hope will one day allow him to walk independently.
Called advanced biomechanical rehabili-tation, the therapy will improve his connective tissue to help his stability, as well as expanding his chest capacity to give him more energy.
The couple, who run a vehicle cable company, know the therapy will be hard work.
And as the fundraising goes on, Chris said the family were looking forward to the boys starting school. He said: “It’s a massive milestone, not just for Alfie, but for all of us.”
To contribute to Alfie’s therapy go to http://just4children.org/children-helped-2016/alfie-wants-to-walk/