A SICK child is every parent's worst nightmare.

But a couple whose son was born with seven separate heart defects have turned their own personal nightmare into a drive to raise funds for charity, and already close to hitting £2,500 just two weeks after the toddler underwent his second life-saving surgery in less than a year.

Harris Pendleton has amazed doctors with his recovery after being born with multiple heart problems, including a massive hole in his heart.

The Herald:

The 11-month-old, from Edinburgh, underwent a marathon 15-hour operation at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow on May 31.

His parents, Chris and Ashley, both photographers, set up a fundraising page online within days of the surgery in order to thank the charities which had supported them through their ordeal with Harris, who is the couple's first child.

They quickly exceeded an initial target of £1000 and are now less than £20 away from achieving their new aim of raising £2,500 for organisations including the Ronald Macdonald charity, Zak Scot Brave Heart Foundation, and the Glasgow Children's Hospital Charity.

"We really wanted to give something back," said Mr Pendleton, adding that fundraising had given the couple something to "focus on".

They first discovered their son's heart problems during a routine 20-week pregnancy scan.

The Herald:

Harris was born on July 15 last year at Glasgow's specialist children's hospital - the only place in Scotland where he could get the care he needed straight away.

His parents were only able to cuddle their newborn son for "a couple of minutes" before he was whisked to a neo-natal intensive care unit in preparation for his first major surgery at just seven days old.

As well as the hole in his heart, Harris also had coarctation of the aorta - where the vessel is so narrowed that it dangerously restricts the flow of blood around the heart - as well as a number of valves which were round the wrong way.

On their own the conditions are comparatively common, but the number and severity of defects affecting Harris made his case extremely rare.

Mr Pendleton, 30, said: "We were told that individually, the defects he has are all quite common and you can often see a couple of the conditions together, but to have all these conditions together in his heart is rare.

"When we were talking to the surgeon we said, 'have you seen this before?'. He said he had seen it recently, in one other baby, but that was it and he has been a surgeon since about 1983. So the combination is very rare and that's what has added to the complexity of his surgery."

Doctors expected to keep Harris in the Glasgow hospital for six months after his first operation until his heart was strong enough allow surgeons to repair the hole, but he stunned medics with his recovery and was home in Edinburgh within two weeks.

However, the toddler faced a series of setbacks which delayed his second operation after falling ill with swine flu, a cold and a urine infection, which delayed surgery for three months.

He finally returned to the operating theatre last month when the hole in his heart was sealed and valves repositioned during a painstaking 15-hour procedure.

Although Harris is likely to require a permanent pacemaker in future, he was already well enough to be discharged on Monday.