Newborn baby, who underwent major surgery, is home in time for Christmas

Parents of Mason-Ray, Alana Watling and Andrew Smith, following his birth earlier this year

Parents of Mason-Ray, Alana Watling and Andrew Smith, following his birth earlier this year - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Many families at this time of year are preparing for the festive season and thinking about spending time with their loved ones. 

But, for a family from Norwich, this Christmas will be extra special as they celebrate bringing their baby boy home following two major surgeries in less than three months. 

Mason-Ray Smith, who was born with six heart defects, underwent his first operation at just a day old. 

It was during the 20-week scan the parents, Alana Watling and Andrew Smith, were told the devastating news. The couple, from the Pockthorpe Gate area, was informed that the tot would need surgery to correct three of the defects when he was born.  

"Amazing" baby Mason-Ray Smith has made it home in time for Christmas

"Amazing" baby Mason-Ray Smith has made it home in time for Christmas - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

To add to their anguish, the operations would have to be done by specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), 100 miles away from their Norfolk home.  

Miss Watling said: “It was a lot for us to take in when we had all this information thrown at us about our newborn baby but we didn’t have a lot of time before his first surgery and just had to prepare ourselves as best we could.  

“But Mason-Ray has been doing amazingly well following his recovery and we’re all looking forward to celebrating his first Christmas at home.” 

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After his birth at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Mason-Ray, who turns one next month, spent a few hours in the neonatal intensive care unit before being transferred to London.  

He was also born with two stomach conditions. The first, known as "double bubble", where the small intestine is not connected to the stomach correctly, causing both to swell with fluid. The other, intestinal malrotation, where the intestines do not form a coil and become twisted instead which can cause blockages.  

Baby Mason-Ray, shortly after he was born

Baby Mason-Ray, shortly after he was born - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Within the first 24 hours of his life, Mason-Ray underwent his first operation to correct the problems with his stomach. Due to this unplanned procedure, his heart surgery was pushed back and the family returned home.  

For the next two months, they spent several trips in and out of hospital before returning to London for Mason-Ray’s second operation. 

The heart surgery to correct the AVSD, VSD, and leaky heart valve was successful and Mason-Ray spent a week on the intensive care unit before being moved to the GOSH children’s ward.  

During his second stay there, his parents were supported by The Sick Children’s Trust and its home-from-home, Rainbow House, located just minutes away from the hospital. It gives families a place to stay for free close to their child's hospital bedside. 

“As Mason-Ray was being taken for his heart surgery were told about The Sick Children’s Trust and that we had a room at Rainbow House," Miss Watling added. “It was such a huge benefit for us to be able to stay close to our son without having to worry about travel or hotel expenses.  

“Staying at Rainbow House allowed us to see him whenever we needed to. 

“While he was recovering from his first surgery, we were shown a lot of the equipment that Mason-Ray would need when he returned for his heart surgery. This made things a little easier and reassured us for when we would be back at GOSH.” 

The family is now looking towards the future and getting ready to enjoy their baby’s first-ever Christmas together at home. 

The chief executive of The Sick Children’s Trust, Jane Featherstone, said: “It’s wonderful to hear how well Mason-Ray has been doing since leaving hospital and how much the family is looking forward to celebrating his first Christmas.”   

The Sick Children’s Trust is the charity that gives families with seriously ill children in hospitals a comfortable place to stay in one of its ten accommodation locations. The charity relies entirely on voluntary donations. It costs The Sick Children’s Trust £30 to support a family for one night. 

  • For further information about The Sick Children’s Trust, or to donate to help other families, visit sickchildrenstrust.org