A tiny tot weighing just under 10lbs was saved by a hero surgeon who had to perform a “miracle” life-saving op to correct an ultra-rare heart defect.
Adorable Iris Bell was in desperate need of major surgery to replace her faulty heart valve with a mechanical one.
She was born with severe mitral regurgitation – a condition that causes blood to flow the wrong way inside the heart.
It meant that her body struggled to process fluids and Iris would vomit every time she fed.
Medics told Iris’s parents that an op was a last resort option because of how tiny she was and they were warned the tot only had a one in 10 chance of survival.
This was complicated further because only a handful of surgeons in the country had performed the op.
But with time running out, Iris was rushed into surgery at just five months old where her life was left “in the hands” of cardiac surgeon Osama Jaber.
Parents Sophie and Ashley Bell waited patiently while Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) consultant surgeon Dr Jaber battled to save Iris in July last year.
Sophie says it was the “longest day of her life” but the tot came out of theatre seven hours later and was immediately rushed to the intensive care unit.
Six months on, Iris is now on the mend after the successful operation and will celebrate her first birthday on January 28.
Mother Sophie, 29, from Horncastle, North Lincs., has described how the family have been “through hell” but heaped praise on the surgeon who saved her life.
She said: “We were told that her condition was rare and we would struggle to find anyone else in the country who would have come across this, and performed the operation needed several times.
“So her life was literally in the surgeon’s hands.
“This man truly deserves a medal of recognition. No salary he is paid will ever be enough for the magnificent work he is highly skilled in doing.
“This man really is a hero. Not only to Iris but to so many other children.
“It is likely that Iris will need to undergo similar heart surgery again throughout her lifetime, to replace the artificial valve with a larger one.
“I’m not having anymore children – we’ve been through hell and back.”
Mum-of-two Mrs Bell, who works as a self-employed beautician, said her daughter’s life has turned around following the life-saving op.
“Iris is doing amazing now,” she added.
“She still has a feeding tube in at the moment, for a bit of extra growth, but we are hoping that will be out in the next week.
“She is such a different child to what she was before the operation, I can’t believe what a difference it made by him doing it.
“It was really frightening but it’s incredible what surgeons can do.
“We still have ups and downs because of the changes with her heart valve, but she is doing great now.
“I know the other surgeons at Leeds who perform these miracles on such small children and babies are also one in a million.
“We cannot fault the NHS. We have had nothing but first class service throughout our difficult times in 2017.”
Mrs Bell said that is now likely that Iris will need to undergo the procedure again when she is older, to have the mechanical heart valve replaced with a bigger one.
“I’m hoping that Dr Jaber will still be around and have not retired for that operation,” she added.
Dr Jaber has been nominated to receive an accolade as part of a local newspaper’s We Love Our NHS campaign.
Speaking after being nominated, Mr Jaber said: “Every child that I treat is like my own and I was really quite emotional when I was told about this nomination.
“Just to hear such kind words is fantastic.
“It is an absolute honour to be nominated by Sophie and I am extremely grateful and quite humbled by the experience.”
Iris’s dad Ashley, 34, is preparing to cycle to the city in a gruelling challenge to raise money for the LGI’s heart surgery unit.
Mr Bell, along with friends, will cycle 100 miles on June 2 from the family’s home in Horncastle to the LGI as a thank you for the care they received in the city.
He is raising money for the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, a vital charity that supports the hospital’s children’s wards.
To donate to Mr Bell’s fundraising efforts, visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ashley-bell4