THE anxious mother of a little boy having open-heart surgery for the second time has spoken of her fears that her "little soldier" won't survive.
Five-year-old James Ward was born with Blue Baby Syndrome which left him suffering from a number of heart defects.
The youngster endured a 14 hour surgery in 2007, during which parts of a pig's artery were inserted into his heart. James was today facing his "toughest battle" to date, when he underwent a gruelling open heart operation in Crumlin Hospital.
Doctors have told James's family, from Arklow, Co Wicklow, that the surgery -- which will involve the insertion of a human artery into his heart -- poses its own serious risks.
Speaking to the Herald before the surgery, James's mother Nicola admitted that she was at her "wits end".
"I'm terrified that I'm going to lose him. Doctors have told us that if he doesn't get the operation, he could collapse at any time. There are risks involved in every operation and we know this will be his toughest test yet.
"We're just praying it goes okay. If it is successful it could keep his body going until he is in his mid teens. It's vital that the operation is a success." James's bravery touched the hearts of many when in 2007, aged just one, he battled through his first operation.
However the new artery narrowed significantly from 10mm to 4mm, and doctors now need to replace it.
James was born with a vital valve missing from his heart which causes it to struggle to pump blood to the lungs. The condition leaves babies without enough oxygen and prone to turning blue in the face.
It affects around one out of every 1,000 children.
Nicola told the Herald that she was "praying" her little lad would be out to celebrate his sixth birthday.
"He knows that he is getting an operation and, to be honest, he's scared skinny," she said. "But he's a soldier and I know he'll get through it."