A baby born with half a heart whose life was saved in time for Christmas has smiled for the very first time.
Charlie Douthwaite, now 14 weeks old, was born in the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle and badly needed a transplant to survive.
He was thought to be the youngest baby in the UK waiting for a heart.
But a Europe-wide appeal to find a match was effective and in December the little boy had the operation which saved his life.
And now the little warrior, currently in the Freeman Hospital, has smiled for the first time.
‘I take pictures of Charlie every day because babies change so quickly,’ said his mum Tracie Wright, 30, of Fenham, Newcastle.
‘I had just taken one of him looking really grumpy and so I started laughing, and he looked at me and smiled.
‘It was overwhelming, just amazing. In that moment I forgot about everything we had been through.
‘I just saw a beautiful baby smiling back at me and looking happy.
‘It came out of nowhere. Charlie’s dad Steven was with me but he didn’t notice at first, I had to nudge him, then I took a picture as quickly as I could.’
Charlie, who was born on October 2, has been progressively improving after undergoing the operation, and Tracie says he is doing better than ever.
A nurse even told her that her baby is the youngest to have had a heart transplant at the Freeman Hospital.
Tracie, also mum to Jamie, 10, and Ryan, seven, said: ‘I have written to the family in case the want to contact us. I can’t describe in words the gratitude I feel for them.
‘They have given us the most precious gift.
‘It’s important that we are respectful of their privacy, but if they express a wish to meet us then I would be more than happy to.
‘Charlie is doing well, but we are taking one day at a time, and we don’t yet know when he will be coming home.
‘We’re just happy he’s come this far.’
Charlie’s heart problem was diagnosed when Tracie had her 20-week scan.
He had hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a condition which leaves the left side of the organ underdeveloped and not working properly.
His aorta was also narrow and had a hole in it and there was another hole between two of the chambers of the heart.
But his parents decided to carry on with the pregnancy and give little Charlie the chance to thrive.
His mother made a viral appeal on Facebook to nearly 100,000 people in a desperate bid to find him a new heart.
Her prayers were answered and Charlie was rushed to theatre for the nine-hour operation.
‘It was wonderful to see our little warrior’s first ever smile,’ said Charlie’s dad Steven Douthwaite, 32.
‘Charlie continues to make steady progress.
‘His chest is still open. It has a vacuum dressing on so that will allow his chest to close at its own pace. Slow and steady seems to be working well.
‘A nurse said she thinks Charlie is the youngest person to receive a transplant in the Freeman which is absolutely gobsmacking.
‘He’s been through so much and we are just so happy about the progress he has made.’
Posting on Facebook shortly after Charlie underwent his transplant, Tracie and Steven wrote: ‘We just wanted to let you all know that Charlie received his heart and has had his transplant.
‘It hasn’t quite sunk in that out there somewhere an amazing family gave us that amazing priceless most precious gift that could ever be given, in their darkest time they still thought of someone else.
‘There (SIC) such special people. Thank you just doesn’t seem like a big enough word to say to them.
‘They gave our baby boy a second chance at life and for that we’ll be forever thankful and eternally grateful.
‘We can’t describe what Charlie means to us hes the most special and precious baby boy.
‘It’s still early days for Charlie having a heart transplant is a massive operation for such a small baby and we just need him to recover well.
‘He’s done well so far we couldn’t be any more proud of him he’s a real life hero, our little warrior.’