Little Ethan Eaves whizzes around the family home in his baby walker, just weeks after a life-saving heart transplant during lockdown.
And the courageous toddler follows in the footsteps of dad Richard – who also had a heart transplant, at the start of last year.
Ethan spent almost a year being kept alive by a mechanical heart outside his body before Richard and wife Roselelia got the call to say a real organ had been found for the 19-month-old.
Richard said: “It’s incredible. I’m just so grateful that two families said yes to organ donations and that our recoveries are going well.
“It’s lovely to be a proper family again under one roof. It’s so nice to wake up each morning and hear Ethan chatting away to himself, and watching him play with his sisters.”
Ethan was eight months old when he was diagnosed with an enlarged heart in August 2019.
Richard, 38, knew what lay ahead for his baby son because he was still recovering from a heart transplant himself only eight months earlier.
Engineer Richard’s life was saved by a stranger after he was diagnosed with a different heart problem from his son’s.
The genetic condition, right ventricular cardiomyopathy, had also claimed the life of his own dad at 35.
Richard was distraught as Ethan was rushed to London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, where he spent months before news of a donor came through during the pandemic restrictions.
Ethan was initially placed on an air pressure machine to help his ailing heart – but by November was reliant on a Berlin mechanical heart.
With Ethan now home, Roselelia has sent sincerest thanks to the family who decided to donate their child’s organs.
She said: “When we got the call to say a heart had been found I wept with relief. I called my mum and could only get out the word ‘heart’ because I was crying so hard.
“At the same time I was crying just as hard because someone had lost their little one and made the difficult decision to donate their organs.
“I hope one day we meet that family and they can see what they’ve done for us – that a story of hope has come from their sorrow. If it wasn’t for Richard and Ethan’s donors I would be a widow now and my son wouldn’t be here.”
From May this year all adults actively have to opt out of organ donation under Max and Keira’s Law.
The regulations are named after 12-year-old Max Johnson, who campaigned with the Mirror to change the law, and his heart donor Keira Ball, who tragically lost her life at nine.
But the new legislation does not apply to under-18s and parents still have to give permission for their child’s organs to be used.
Roselelia spent weeks alone at her son’s beside during the Covid-19 outbreak because GOSH rules meant only one carer could stay with Ethan.
She had returned home to Luton, Beds, for a rare night when the couple got the all-important news a donor had been found in a 4am phone call.
Roselelia, 35, who works for a property firm, said: “By this time the restrictions had lifted a little so we both rushed down to the hospital and Ethan was in surgery an hour later.
“I held him in my arms and sang to him as he was given the anaesthetic and wheeled to theatre for six hours. We were allowed to visit him an hour after his operation. It was so weird seeing him in a bed with no tubes leading from his chest and no vibration from all the machinery keeping him alive.”
Richard and Roselelia are astonished by how quickly Ethan has settled into life back home.
The Berlin heart meant he was only able to sit up in hospital and he got so tired he could play with his toys for just short periods of time.
But he is already running rings around adoring big sisters Alana, seven, and Maia, 12, Roselelia’s children from a previous relationship.
She said: “It was amazing to have him home after almost a year in a hospital bed.
“The first day he got home he was really quiet. I sat him on the floor and he kept rubbing and touching the carpet saying ‘Ooohh’.
“Next day he got really excited as we took him around the house and garden showing him everything.
“By the third I think he realised he had two big sisters and that he would need to shout to be heard.
“He’s in a walker now, flying around the house and catching our ankles on it.
“The first time he tried it he went backwards but he’s now stealing all the tea towels and fridge magnets.
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“He’s loving his freedom. He’s been out on the back of Richard’s bike and to the zoo, where he was more interested in pictures of zebras than a real one standing in front of him!
“He shouts ‘trees’ whenever we ride past them and always sniffs the flowers, which is very funny.
“We’re still having to shield because of the virus but we’re having a great time as a family outdoors and just feel like the luckiest people in the world.”
Angie Scales, lead nurse of paediatric organ donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said it was “fantastic” Ethan’s life had been saved.
She said: “We wish him all the best. Our thoughts are also with the family of his donor as they come to terms with the loved one’s death.
“Without them agreeing to donate, a transplant wouldn’t have happened.”