‘The scariest thing was putting him to bed because we didn’t know if was happening in his sleep.’
Nathan Byrne was less than four-months-old when a massive hole was discovered in his tiny heart.
The Mirror reported Nathan was born lifeless but his mother, Lesley, was rushed to the Glasgow’s Princess Royal Infirmary, where medics resuscitated him.
His parents were told he suffered a rare condition called tetralogy of fallot, which combines several medical issues stemming from a large hole in his heart and narrowing of the pulmonary artery.
Unfortunately, the infant was too small for surgery and doctors told his parents they would have to wait for the life-saving procedure.
“We were devastated but we were told it would be six months before he would need his surgery, to give him time to grow,” Lesley recalled. “But Nathan was only three-and-a-half months when he had it.”
At only two-months-old, Nathan suffered two respiratory infections and never recovered, which left the boy suffering constant bouts of turning blue and going limp.
His terrified parents could only wait as their son’s health deteriorated before their eyes.
“The scariest thing was putting him to bed because we didn’t know if [it] was happening in his sleep.”
When Lesley and her husband David were finally allowed to take Nathan into surgery, he was unable to function normally.
Doctors scrambled to save the infant.
The Daily Record reported Nathan’s chest was cut open and he was connected to an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine, which worked to pump blood through his body for three days, allowing his organs sufficient time to recover.
His parents were concerned but Lesley admitted she never doubted he would come out okay.
“It never crossed my mind that he wouldn’t come out of surgery. It probably should have but I just thought, ‘They can fix his heart.'”
The surgery was successful but doctors ran out of room for tubes on his tiny body. Still, Nathan never stopped fighting for his life.
Nathan’s family was shocked to see the boy could still smile after surgery (Michael Trail).
Nathan’s chest was left open for seven days, as his heart was too swollen to safely close his chest cavity.
Nathan fought for survival during the following three months, when he suffered a serious bowel infection that left the organ “on the verge of bursting.”
To combat the infection, the tiny boy was starved for ten days but in his drugged state of inactivity, he developed blood clots, which traveled to his brain.
He suffered seizures from the clots that lasted anywhere from 45 minutes to four hours.
Nathan suffered withdrawals from the morphine used to keep him from pain and when doctors attempted to take him off the ventilator, he would stop breathing.
It took the hospital staff four tries before Nathan was able to breathe without it.
Lesley explained: “For six or seven weeks, we couldn’t see an end to it. Then one morning we came in and he just looked different.
“He still had the ventilator taped to his mouth but he tried to smile and I knew he was going to come off it.
“…To look at him, you would never know what he’s been through. He has so much energy and never stops smiling. It is amazing he still does that, considering all that he has been through.
“It was just one thing after another. I remember saying to the doctors, ‘What’s happening, is he ever going to get better?”
When it was obvious Nathan would make it, Daniel made a video of his son’s ordeal.
The couple plans to show him the film when he is older to show how far he came from that experience.
The family is currently preparing for Nathan’s first birthday and continues to raise money for the Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity, which paid for Nathan’s medical bills and the Byrne’s stay at the hospital.
“The charity even funded the beds that allowed us to stay in the ward with Nathan,” Lesley explained. “If they hadn’t, we would have had to leave him and that would have made it even harder.”