A TWO-year-old boy who underwent life-saving brain surgery in New York three weeks ago was back home yesterday after stunning doctors.
Liam Heffernan from Castledrum, Keel, Co Kerry, has delighted his parents, Tony and Mary, with his speedy recovery.
Liam suffers from Battens Disease, a rare and fatal disorder that claimed the life of his older sister Saoirse in January.
He underwent surgery at New York's Weill Cornel University on May 3 as part of a medical treatment trial, and was discharged on Thursday after his latest check-up.
Although the little boy's progress is impressive, his parents have been warned it's still too soon to judge if the procedure has been a success.
"His vocabulary has doubled since the surgery and he's definitely running around far more confidently," Tony told the Irish Independent.
"We can't say for definite that it's down to the surgery. . . We're taking all this as a positive."
Liam had been on a special liquid diet but his father reported that he was now drinking regular juice and had even started biting the crusts off toast.
"We're just going to enjoy every minute of him. . . We always said that if we got even 10 extra minutes with Liam it would have been worth it.
"We've done all we can for him and now we're just hoping that it was enough."
Liam underwent gene transfer treatment but it remains to be seen whether his body will accept the new genes.
He's due back in New York in November.
For now the Heffernans are looking forward to June 4, World Battens Day, that coincidentally would have been Saoirse's sixth birthday.
Meanwhile, a young Co Cork girl, who was given just weeks to live last October, has stunned her family and defied doctors by living to celebrate her fourth birthday.
Megan Malone, from Kilnamartyra in Co Cork, continues to receive treatment for a rare brain tumour at New York's Children's Presbyterian Hospital.
She celebrated her birthday at the weekend with her family around her.
John and Sheila Malone, along with seven-year-old Chloe, Dylan aged five and baby Tristan, who was just eight weeks old at the time, moved to New York in December after Megan was accepted for the specialist Head Start Programme.
Just weeks earlier, John and Sheila were told by doctors in Dublin to take Megan home to die as there was nothing more they could do for her.
"We are all so delighted that she's still alive and with us for her fourth birthday," said her father John.
"Hopefully we will celebrate many more birthday parties with her in the future. She is in flying form altogether so long may that continue."
In April it was confirmed that there was no longer any trace of cancer in her brain while tumours on her spine also appeared to have completely cleared.
While Megan continues to undergo treatment, her family still hopes they can return to Cork later this year, in time for Megan to start playschool.