Zack's starting school in September
“Zack is a typical little four year old boy. He’s starting big school up the road in September. When we think back about how he was struggling to survive four years ago I can’t believe we’re here. We’re thinking about a school uniform and school books. He absolutely loves pre-school and actually wants to go in during the weekend.
The 11th of February 2019 marked the fourth anniversary of Zack’s second open heart surgery. The surgery in 2015 took a massive ten hours and he had to go on the ECMO machine afterwards to help him breathe because his condition was so unstable. We just didn’t know if he would make it through, but three days after that, on Valentine’s Day, he came off the ECMO machine and started to get better. It was the best Valentine’s gift we could ever get.
“The last time I spoke to CMRF Zack had just finished his Fontan surgery on his heart, and he continued to thrive afterwards. Over the summer this year he will have his fenestration closed – this is the follow up surgery to his Fontan surgery. It will be through the groin so it’s non-invasive. Dr Franklin is absolutely delighted with how well he’s doing. The only thing I need him to start doing is eating fruit and veg! He loves his noodles.
The winter can be tough for kids like Zack with a heart problem. His immune system is a bit poorly and he catches anything that’s going. He caught a cold that manifested into a bad chest infection so he was really sick for a while, but he’s nearly better now. He actually has a little brother now, Scott, who is five months old. Zack is such a great big brother. He changes his teddy bear’s nappy when I’m changing Scott’s nappy. He knows it’ll keep his little brother calm and distracted. He’s such a pet. When I had Scott I realised what a big boy Zack had become. My baby wasn’t a baby anymore!
He’s going to speech and language therapy and his language skills are amazing. The other day he said ‘I’m proud of you mammy’. I’m not sure where he heard it, or if he knew what he was saying, but it was so cute I wanted to eat him up after that.
“The research that CMRF supports is so important. Most people, including myself, don’t understand the significance of research until something happens to them or someone close to them. The amount of issues people can have with their heart is huge. With Zack, anything that could go wrong with his little heart seemed to go wrong. Even thinking about when Zack was born, he had a scan and they found out he had a seventh heart defect. We’ve gone from wondering if he would survive to planning his first day at school. We’re going to be at the gates with party poppers and fireworks. Zack doesn’t even know how much he’s been through. We all complain about the little things and he’s been through so much already. When I look at videos of Zack taking his first walk after having his Fontan surgery when he was so sore, I’m really proud. He just wanted to sleep but when we told him there were hot wheels in the playroom he somehow made his way to find them, whimpering on the way he was in so much pain. He was always determined. It was a very strange moment, as a mum – it was heart-breaking to see him in pain, but I was also proud that he was so resilient and progressing so much.
“We had such an unbelievable Christmas together! Somehow Santa managed to get the toys that Zack asked for; a red hulk and a Pokémon nobody had ever heard of! Santa left his gifts and Zack’s mind was blown on Christmas morning. His little brother had some lovely presents too. The only thing better than getting presents on Christmas morning is seeing your children’s faces when they open their presents! That elf on the shelf created loads of excitement leading up to Christmas, even though he was nothing but trouble! Zack loved him though. He gasped every time the elf moved and he searched the whole house until he found him again. It was perfect having our family together to enjoy the festivities. Life for our little family is great now and I’m so grateful!”
Aoife Murphy, Zack and Scott’s mum.