A dad wanted to make sure his son knew a scar he bears from life-saving heart surgery was something to be proud of – so had a matching one tattooed on his own CHEST.
Devoted Martin Watts, 37, went the extra mile so his six-year-old son, Joey wasn’t self-conscious about the large 9cm scar that runs down his chest.
Little Joey suffers from a condition called supravalvular aortic stenosis – a heart defect causing the narrowing of the large vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
He needed risky open heart surgery to widen the blood vessel but was only given a one in ten chance of survival.
Joey underwent the eight-hour operation at Leeds Children’s Hospital on May 23 which has so far been successful.
His older brother, Harley, seven, also has the rare condition and will be having the same life-saving treatment later this year.
Martin, from Beverley, East Yorks., decided to have the scar tattooed on his own chest in a show of support to his son.
He went to a local tattoo parlour and had the exact same scar as Joey as well as his heartbeat inked on his chest on May 29 – the day after the “little fighter” was discharged from hospital.
Joey’s mum, Leanne Watts, 40, said: “It’s absolutely fantastic, it just shows him it’s nothing to be scared of and that he should be proud of what he has achieved in life.
“It’s not easy for a six-year-old boy or any child of any age to have that type of surgery.
“When Joey saw the scar, he just said, ‘is this where they have cut me to fix my heart’?
“We’ve told him it should be something to be proud of and he shouldn’t be ashamed by what has happened to him.
“All of these warriors should be proud of their scars and all they achieve in life.”
The full-time mum-of-six says Joey is healing really well but will need three further operations to widen his pulmonary branches and to try to stretch his vessels.
Leanne discovered Harley had the rare condition 14 weeks after he was born, but with Joey, she found out 28 weeks into her pregnancy.
“From when they were first born, they told me there was nothing they could do, we would just have to live with it,” she added.
“I was told they both could pass away at any given point. Joey’s condition progressed rapidly.
“They said if we didn’t try something now the inevitable will be sooner rather than later.
“It’s not what you want to hear, however, if you are told you will lose your son if you don’t at least try, you have to put things into perspective.
“It was really scary and we both had reservations but I’m so glad we did choose to go ahead.
“On the day of the surgery, I was numb, I was scared. You just don’t know what to think. You want to trust people but you have your reservations.
“You know they are in good hands. The amount of people that were in theatre that day, you just knew they were prepared for the worst possible outcome.”
Harley is due to undergo the same surgery as his brother later this year but Leanne is optimistic given how successful Joey’s surgery went.
“You take comfort from the way surgeons at Leeds handled things with Joey,” she added. “It will be just as scary but they have given you reason to believe.
“I thought superheroes wore capes, they don’t, they wear surgical scrubs and gowns.
“It’s a very rare condition and is linked to William’s Syndrome. For some reason, the boys don’t have William’s Syndrome but they have the heart condition of a child with William’s.”
Martin was encouraged to share photos of the scars as part of an empowering campaign by the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund (CHSF) known as #ScarSelfie.
#ScarSelfie celebrates patients with congenital heart disease (CHD) who have scars
following surgery and other procedures.
Supporters are also encouraged to donate to the charity, which supports the Leeds Congenital Heart Unit at Leeds Children’s Hospital.
Sharon Milner, CEO of CHSF, said: “We fully understand that showing a scar picture is a very personal decision and not for everyone.
“However, we have run this campaign in previous years and know the positive message it brings.
“We are blown away by the bravery and resilience of the hundreds of CHD patients who undergo open-heart surgery and life-saving procedures at the Leeds Congenital Heart Unit every day – like Joey.
“This campaign is one way of celebrating the incredible stories of these heart warriors. Please do take part if you can, and support our wonderful cause by way of donations.”