In his 11 short weeks of life, tiny Marcus Dunn has been through more than most of us would go through in a lifetime.
Marcus is truly a miracle.
Born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, Marcus has half a heart, a condition that strikes one in one million.
The odds are stacked against him and he lives day to day.
It’s a miracle he is alive and, thanks to his parents Whitney Allison and Troy Dunn of Rutherford, this little fighter has been given a second chance.
The diagnosis came after an ultrasound when Ms Allison was 24 weeks into her pregnancy.
She and Mr Dunn were told things didn’t look good for their baby and they were given three options.
“The options were to terminate the pregnancy, or deliver at term and hold our baby until he died in our arms, or deliver him and opt for high-risk surgery, which is what we did,” Ms Allison said.
“We knew there was a low survival rate and doctors strongly recommended I terminate [the pregnancy, but we were willing to take the risk to give Marcus a chance at life.”
While little is known about this rare condition, Ms Allison said every day was trial and error.
“Doctors are still learning about this genetic condition and I do feel like Marcus is a guinea pig at times, but to look at him now we wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
Marcus underwent the first round of open heart surgery when he was two days old.
A shunt was inserted into an artery to maintain blood flow into his lungs.
He is scheduled to have a second round of surgery in a few weeks.
Marcus was delivered full term weighing a healthy 3.3 kilos.
He and Ms Allison have been living at Westmead Hospital since he was born on April 2.
She said those first few days of his life were a nightmare, not knowing if he would live or die.
“After his first surgery I knew something was wrong and that was confirmed when I was told he’d had a big bleed and it didn’t look good,” Ms Allison said.
“Troy and I were told to say our goodbyes to him.
“He was in intensive care and there was no time to get him back to surgery.
“The ward was cleared and they set up an emergency theatre to try to save Marcus.
“Troy wouldn’t say goodbye, he just kissed Marcus on the head and told doctors to do everything they could to save his life and they did.
“What a little fighter he was to pull through and he has been doing great ever since.
“He spent 13 days in intensive care fighting for his little life with his chest exposed, his little body swollen and no one knowing if he would make it.
“We were by his side until one or two in the morning and then back with him at around 6am.
“It was a roller coaster,” Ms Allison said.
But Marcus is not out of the woods yet.
“While we have been told the second surgery is not as bad as the first it’s still touch and go.
“In a perfect world all will go well, Marcus will make a speedy recovery and we can go home and live life as a family again,” Whitney said.
Mr Dunn has had to return to Maitland to work and help care for their daughter Harper, 21 months.
His mum Trish, whose partner died last month, has also been helping care for Marcus’ big sister.
“Lots of tears have been shed,” Ms Allison said. “I miss home and the family, but I have to say that the Westmead Hospital staff and the staff at Ronald McDonald House have been excellent and really looked after us.
“With everything that has happened I look at life differently now.
“There are so many sick kids down here and that has opened my eyes up just seeing how everyone tries to cope.
“It has been tough, a strain on all the family and my head is still spinning.
“I have no idea when we will be home, but I’m hoping it will be either for Troy’s birthday in August or Harper’s second birthday in September.
“We don’t know what’s ahead for Marcus but what we do know is that he is a little fighter.”