London - Bright-eyed as she toddles along holding her mother’s hands, Alba Butler looks like a bonny one-year-old.
Yet the little girl is lucky to be alive – having been born with a "back-to-front" heart.
A rare condition meant its main blood vessels were swapped over, with oxygen pumped straight back to her lungs instead of around her body.
As soon as she was born – already blue from the lack of oxygen – she was taken into surgery to create a hole in her heart to help oxygen-rich blood circulate around her body.
Eight days later her distraught parents Alejandra Garcia, 26, and Danny Butler, 30, of Thornton, Lancashire, had to watch as she was wheeled in for nine-hour open heart surgery to reverse her condition.
Despite warnings that she might not make it, the "little warrior" has battled through everything to enjoy her first birthday party ten days ago. Garcia, who works in marketing, said: ‘She really is incredible. She absolutely loves food and she’s a really good sleeper.
"She’s just about to start walking and her favourite word to say is 'hiya'. She is just amazing.
"When we got Alba’s diagnosis, we prepared ourselves for the worst but she has exceeded all our expectations. She’s a little warrior. We’re so proud."
Garcia had been told she would never conceive naturally and was on the IVF waiting list when she and Mr Butler, a joiner, discovered she was ten weeks pregnant in May last year.
But at the 20-week scan they were told the baby had a serious heart defect known as transposition of the great arteries (TGA).
Alba’s pulmonary artery was where her aorta should be, carrying oxygenated blood from the left ventricle to her lungs, while her aorta was where her pulmonary artery should be, carrying deoxygenated blood around her body.
Some babies with TGA have a hole in the heart which allows the oxygenated and deoxygenated blood to mix. But Alba did not have this, so no oxygen would get to her body when she was born. Garcia said: "We were so upset. After being told I would never conceive and then finding out I was pregnant, I knew it all felt too good to be true."
Alba was born by caesarean section at Liverpool Women’s Hospital and taken straight to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital for surgery to allow her blood to mix.
Garcia said: "I didn’t get to hold her, I just got to touch her finger as she was taken away. I couldn’t stop crying. They told us she only had a 50 percent chance of survival."
Her parents’ relief after Alba’s first operation was short-lived as she then had to go for open heart surgery days later. Miss Garcia said: "I couldn’t believe I might never see her or hold her again.
"As soon as I could see her and see she was okay and breathing, I just can’t even describe that feeling – it was a huge relief."Daily Mail