By Kevin Palmer @RealKevinPalmer 



'Then the surgeon said we could stop the treatment and let him slip away peacefully’.

They were the words Máirtín and Seph Mac Gabhann had dreaded from the moment they discovered their precious little boy Dáithí was facing a fight for his life.

Even before he arrived in the world in a Belfast hospital in late 2016, Dáithí was fighting a serious heart condition that would leave him facing a huge fight to cling on to life.

Open heart surgery was performed in London in the days after he was born and it was then that doctors concluded this was a fight that could not be won.

Yet Dáithí was not going to give up without a fight and as his brave Dad Máirtín sat down for an exclusive chat, the journey of despair, hope and joy this remarkable family have been on tweaks every emotional chord.

“We found out at her 20-week scan that we found out that we had something seriously wrong and a cardiologist then told us that Dáithí has one of the most severe congenital heart defects,” begins Máirtín. 

“It’s a condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome and it means that he was born with half a working heart and his left side would be under-developed.

“While heart defects are not uncommon for newborn babies, unfortunately, this is one of the more rare and serious conditions and we were made aware that we had a long fight ahead of us when Dáithí was born.

“We had to get a private air ambulance to London and the next day, he had his first open-heart surgery. 

“Sadly, that didn’t go to plan and even though the operation went well, he started to fail and the oxygen levels in his blood were so low.

“He had to have another operation to get him attached to a life-saving machine and he was on that for six days. 

“He had a suspected stroke while he was on it and the surgeon told us every time he tried to take him off the machine, his numbers collapsed again.

“It felt like this was not going to end well and then something remarkable happened.”

With surgeons suggesting they were running out of options to save Dáithí, the little hero at the epicentre of this nightmare gave his own answer to suggestions that his time was up, as his Dad confirms in words that only he can do justice to.

“Things were looking difficult and then the surgeon said we could stop the treatment and let him slip away peacefully,” reflects an emotional Máirtín. 

“They said they could make him comfortable and as there is no real cure for his condition, letting him go now might be for the best.

“Then, just as those discussions were taking place, something incredible happened as Dáithí opened his eyes for the first time after surgery.

“The surgeon couldn’t believe it and looked at us and said: ‘Your son may have a broken heart, but he wants to live’.

“So it was on to Plan B and the surgeon had an operation in mind that he didn’t think would work and we had the option to go through with it if we wanted. 

“The alternative was letting him slip away, so it was no choice for us. We went for the surgery.

“It was hard for Dáithí. His chest was opened and we could see his heart beating for 18 days and bit by bit he started to gather strength. 

“Then after 46 days, we got our boy home for Christmas 2016, which was wonderful.

“He went back for the second operation in February, which went really well. The surgeon came up to us and said this was a miracle, but we knew by then that Dáithí was a fighter.”

Complications on their journey with Dáithí mean the smiling battler who is now three-and-a-half has been placed on the waiting list for a heart transplant and his inspiring parents are desperate to raise awareness of the need for more people to sign up to the organ donor register.

“The numbers signing up for organ donation are rising, but they are still not as high as I would like to see as a parent who is desperate for this life-saving gift,” he continues.

“I’m more than happy to share the story of our little boy and try to raise awareness of this issue and hopefully people reading this understand how important this is for families like ours.

“Behind the numbers of people on the waiting list, there are real people with real lives. There are little boys like Dáithí singing Allez, Allez, Allez when he sees Liverpool playing football and we have to do everything we can for these people, young and old.

“We have got to know this little boy. His personality has been shaped in front of us since he has been with us and we can’t imagine our lives without him now. 

“That’s what drives us on to talk about him and to raise awareness of organ donation and hope that the heart is out there for him. This is Dáithí’s last chance.”

The Mac Gabhann’s meeting with Liverpool legend John Aldridge ahead of a game at Anfield was a moment to cherish for Dáithí, as his eyes lit up as he met his new best friend high in the stands at Anfield.

“To have someone like John Aldridge being so nice to us and helping us to get publicity for Dáithí means so much to us,” added Máirtín.  

“He was under pressure to speak to other people, but he came back over to talk to us and included us in his column for The Herald newspaper the next day and it was an emotional moment for us.

“We are big Liverpool fans and meeting one of our heroes was already a great moment, but when Aldo said he wanted to help us to get some publicity for Dáithí, it made it a very special day.”

This is a story of hope rather than despair and now Dáithí and his family are waiting to receive the gift of life.

MORE: How to talk to your partner about organ donation