THE gift of a computer has literally saved the life of a city toddler who doctors feared would die before Christmas Day.
For the computer controls an £100,000 artificial Berlin Heart, which was inserted seven days ago into the tiny chest of 19-month-old Charleigh Thomson.
The Fishermead tot, who is desperately waiting for a heart transplant, was so ill that there was a high risk she would not survive the six hour operation.
But without it, her own heart would have stopped beating before Christmas, doctors predicted.
Not only did Charleigh survive the surgery but she bounced back to come off her life support machine within five days – in time to give her family a big festive smile.
Charleigh’s gran Yvonne Forbes said: “It’s wonderful – it’s part of the Christmas miracle we’ve all been praying for.”
The other part of the miracle will be when a donor heart is found for Charleigh, who was born at Milton Keynes Hospital with three serious heart defects.
The Berlin heart will keep her alive for several months, hopefully long enough to find a transplant heart.
Yvonne said: “Last week we had so little hope but this week suddenly things are so much better.
“Charleigh is a fighter – she survived when the odds were stacked against her and we know she will fight all the way until she has her transplant.”
Now Charleigh’s mum Christina is busy planning Christmas Day in the intensive care unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital, where the toddler must remain until a donor heart is found.
“She has loads of presents to open, but we think her favourite will be a Baby Annabel doll,” said Yvonne.
“We plan to give her the best Christmas ever because we are just so grateful she is still alive.”
Charleigh, who featured in our Little Lives neonatal unit appeal after she was born, should be fit enough to return to a normal high dependency ward in the New Year, though her life-saving computer must always remain strapped to her side.
“It controls her heart and keep her alive so she can never be apart from it.
“But when she’s stronger we can wheel her and the computer around the hospital in a buggy so she gets a change of scene,” said Yvonne.
Already the family has seen two children at Great Ormond Street kept alive by Berlin hearts.
Both went on to have successful transplants and both are due this week to go home for Christmas.
“That gives us such hope. We will never give up,” said Yvonne.
Charleigh’s family is urging people to take a couple of minutes to sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register over the Christmas break.
Register online at www.uktransplan.org/ukt/Consent.do or call the 24 hour a day donor line on 0300 123 23 23.