Brave Zack (4) 'so excited to start big school' after four heart operations
A four-year-old boy born with a serious heart defect "cannot wait" to start primary school this week.
Zack Murphy has had four open heart surgeries and his mum Aoife said: "He is the most brave little person I have ever met."
He was born with a congenital heart defect. Aoife said: "It is thanks to the staff at Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin that my son is alive. There are no words to express the gratitude I have for them."
Aoife was pregnant when she found out Zack had a heart defect at her 20-week anomaly scan. She is encouraging other women to ask for their baby's heart to be checked at their ultrasound.
She also has a 10-month-old baby, Scott, who is "idolised by his big brother".
"I can't believe how incredibly lucky I am to be here with Zack," she said.
"When he was a newborn I had to plan his funeral, something no parent should have to do.
"Sadly we have known a few heart children to pass away so I never, ever take a single moment with Zack for granted because I know how ugly his congenital heart defect can be and what it can do.
"I am so proud of him, so happy to see him get to be a normal little boy and to be so excited about going to big school."
Aoife said her son loved every minute of his time at play school in their home town of Kells, Co Meath.
When he had his fourth surgery last year, she said his play school teachers "sent him a big, beautiful card and presents when he was in hospital".
"He couldn't wait to go back to play school to see his friends. He graduated from it at the end of June and he absolutely loved every minute of it."
With her partner Nigel, Aoife believes Zack will take starting primary school in his stride when he starts at Our Lady of Mercy Primary School on Wednesday.
During last year's operation, Zack had a chest drain inserted to help his body clear fluid.
Aoife said: "He was in pain but despite all of it, he got up, did his physio and played in the play room of the heart centre. He is my tough, brave boy."
Afterwards he was on the blood-thinning drug warfarin for eight months and "was in the blood clinic once or twice a week". She added: "I swear, he's the most brave little person I have ever met."
As a mother of a child with a serious condition, Aoife said: "I'd just like every mother to know that no matter what, you are rocking it.
"Being a mother is full time, 24/7. It involves sleepless nights, fear of the unknown but most importantly raw and unconditional love.
"That is all our children need from us."