Baby doctors said ‘might not make it’ celebrates 21st birthday

A baby born with a serious heart defect whose parents were told he “may not pull through” is soon to celebrate his 21st birthday.

Thomas Catterall, 20, spent most of his life under the care of Alder Hey Hosptial after they performed life-saving surgery on him in 1999 when he was only weeks old.

His dad Neil, 46, from Bolton, told the ECHO about that “horrible” time nearly 21 years ago when he was told the devastating news that every parent dreads to hear.

Neil said: “What should have been a joy and celebration was cut short.

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“His two main arteries were the wrong way around so he was constantly using the oxygen that was in his blood but was never replacing it.

“His health had deteriorated and he wasn’t gaining any colour. He was blue and rapidly going downhill.”

Soon after Thomas was born at Bolton Hospital he was transferred to Pendlebury Children’s Hospital and then to Alder Hey for their expertise in Thomas’ heart condition.

Neil said: “We were introduced to Ronald McDonald House.

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“My wife Jinny was having trouble at this point – complications after the birth of Thomas – so while this was happening to him she was receiving treatment at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital.

“I was sat down and told the surgery that Thomas was going to have would have a significant risk.

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“When somebody tells you that there’s a chance that it won’t go well and he won’t pull through, your world just comes to an end.”

Within the first six weeks of his young life, Thomas was prepared for life-saving surgery at Alder Hey.

An emotional Neil added: “One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is hand my tiny son over to a consultant to operate on.”

Thanks to the brilliance and dedicated care from staff at Alder Hey, Thomas thrived after his surgery and on August 16, 2020, he will celebrate his milestone birthday.

Thomas Catterall now coming up to his 21st birthday with partner Francesca Hall

To thank Alder Hey for saving his son’s life, Neil is about to undertake a charity solo bike ride from Land’s End to Bolton to raise money for the children’s hospital.

You can donate to Neil's fundraiser for Alder Hey Children's Hospital here.

Thomas was under the care of Alder Hey up until 2018 when he received his final check-up.

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Neil said: “We saw these other parents with children looking at our Thomas, starting to grow a moustache.

“They must have looked at him with some hope.

“It was like Thomas was here 18 years ago and got the same surgery as their children and he’s now fit as a fiddle.

“Look at Thomas and see what can happen, have trust in them.”