A LITTLE boy who has already endured three open heart surgeries in his short life is among the courageous children featuring in a new calendar to raise vital funds for charity.
Four-year-old Cayden Dempsey from Cobh is just one of the poster children for Heart Children Ireland, an organisation offering support to the parents and families of children with congenital heart disorders.
His mum Lynsey McCaul gave up work to care for her little boy full-time and said the charity has been a huge support to them throughout their ordeal.
Cayden had his first heart surgery at just four days old when his heart was the size of a walnut. The operation followed a diagnosis of Hypoplastic right heart syndrome in which the right atrium and right ventricle are underdeveloped resulting in inadequate blood flow to the lungs.
“He effectively has half a heart,” Lynsey explained.
“The procedure in 2017 was his third surgery. Before that, Cayden was blue and purple due to poor circulation. He has so much more energy now and it’s amazing to be able to watch him play with his friends. We know that Cayden’s heart will never be fixed. If I could give him my own I would.”
“The whole experience to date has been tough but we have learned to live with it.
“Handing Cayden over for surgery and wondering each time if he will come back from it is always the hardest part for me. There’s no way of knowing when his heart might fail, but a transplant is inevitable. Even then there are no guarantees as he’ll have to get on a waiting list,” she added.
“Up until then we just have to make the most of every day. Once we’re at home together and not in Crumlin then it’s a good day.”
She hopes the Heart Children Ireland calendar will inspire hope.
“You have your cry and get angry but you have to come around in order to make a positive life for your child. When Cayden was born we weren’t sure if he would survive. Now, every day I wake up I thank God we’re all together. Seeing older children and adults in the calendar gives hope to parents like me.”
She encourages her son to view his surgery scars as badges of honour.
“I always tell him his scars are beautiful as I don’t want him to be ashamed of them when he’s older. If anything I want him to be proud of them because they’re a reminder of everything he has come through.”
Lynsey praised the Heart Children charity for helping her through some difficult days.
“It’s only when you have a child with an illness that you realise how difficult it is. Meeting other parents like me was a reminder that I wasn’t alone. They made my world a little bigger,” she said.
To find out more, and buy a calendar (€10), visit http://www.heartchildren.ie