FIVE years after having emergency heart surgery at just nine weeks old, little Moray marvel Madden Entwistle is an unstoppable force of energy.
So when the lively Lossiemouth youngster raced the final few metres to the finish line of a half marathon alongside his RAF Lossiemouth serviceman dad Phil, it was a moment to cherish for his family.
But not only does Madden love running, he is progressing up the belts at a local kickboxing club, plays rugby and football and has taken to swimming like a fish in water.
That has brought great joy to his parents Phil (29) and Nicole (30), who are indebted to staff at Glasgow’s Yorkhill, the Royal hospital for sick children, who helped save the life of their son when he went into heart failure just weeks after he was born.
Thankfully a ten-hour operation to repair a leak in Madden’s tiny heart was successful, and his progress since has been remarkable.
“That is obviously massively down to the people at Yorkhill so we really can’t thank them enough,” said Phil. “They are unbelievable. We always say we will never hear a bad word about the NHS because we can never repay what they’ve done for us.
“Seeing Madden so fit and healthy backs this all up. He’s such an active little kid and lives a more than normal life. There’s just nothing that holds him back, physically or mentally.”
Phil, an aircraft technician at Lossie for the past 12 years, competes in running, triathlon and ironman competitons while wife Nicole is also a keen running and keep-fit enthusiast.
Their healthy lifestyles have rubbed off on little Madden, as he proved when he gave his dad an unforgettable moment at the finish to last month’s Kinloss to Lossiemouth half marathon.
“He ran alongside me and it felt absolutely fantastic.
“I ran the Baxter Loch Ness marathon five years ago raising money for Yorkhill to say thank you and once again he was there at the finish line. It was magical.
“It definitely spurs you on.”
The youngster now attends Hythehill Primary in Lossiemouth and is a completely normal child, if anything even more active than his friends.
“He’s content sitting on the floor playing with his toys but he just loves his activities because he’s got a lot of energy.
“He’s gone up a few belts at Kaizen kickboxing in Elgin. He does swimming lessons and once again he’s just flying through them, because he just loves the swimming pool and the water.
“He does football, gymnastics, rugby training on a Sunday. He’s just a very happy, active little kid.
“He may follow my footsteps a little bit with the running and biking but he’s definitely an all-rounder. We’ve even had him on skis as well. He’s given that a go and he was quite quick picking that up, which is good to see.”
Madden’s heart problems were first spotted before he was born, as Nicole’s 20-week scan picked up on something that wasn’t quite right.
Read more: Family's thanks for Madden's miracle op
She discovered that her baby had a condition called AVSD (atrioventricular septal defect), where a valve between the chambers of his tiny heart had never formed, allowing the oxygenated and deoxygenated blood to mix together.
This meant the baby’s heart was not efficient, and would have to work extra hard just to function properly.
Madden was born one week early on June 4, 2011, weighing in at five and a half pounds.
Doctors planned to operate on his heart defect when he was three months old.
However Madden was not feeding, and with his heart working so hard just to function he was not growing, and was sleeping for 23 hours a day.
“His weight was the big one because of his size, and because his heart was so inefficient, the calories being put into his body were just getting burnt off by staying alive,” Phil said.
“His heart just couldn’t cope with the demand that was being put on it.”
At six weeks old, Madden became seriously ill and went into heart failure.
A specialist team flew up from Glasgow by air ambulance and rushed him to Yorkhill hospital.
Surgery had to be carried out, and during a ten-hour operation a Goretex patch was inserted into the baby’s heart to separate the chambers.
The process was a big success, though Madden stayed at Yorkhill for several weeks while his parents stayed at Ronald McDonald House, a facility which provides accommodation for families which children attending the hospital.
“It is an excellent facility and there is no cost, just donations. The people there were fantastic,” Phil said.
Madden made steady but sure progress from there, and his family came together to show their gratitude to Yorkhill. Phil’s brother-in-law Mark and a group of friends took part in an endurance event in Edinburgh and raised more than £1,000 for the children’s hospital, with Phil raising more cash by doing the Loch Ness marathon.
Most importantly, Madden’s health is good and he just had to attend annual check-ups in Aberdeen to ensure everything continues to be OK.
“There is still a small leak there, obviously not as much as there was but because he was so small they couldn’t completely stop the blood circulating. So there is a possibility of an operation in the future if it worsens.
“There was mention a couple of years ago of doing it before he started school just so it wasn’t affecting his school development. But because he’s been showing good signs every time we’ve went back they’ve not seen the need to do that.
“He’s still growing, developing, he’s progressing well at school so they are not concerned at all at this stage. It’s always worrying every year we go back but they keep sending us on our way so it’s always good.
“It’s more than a normal life he leads and we are very grateful for that.
“When we were down there (at Yorkhill) we were seeing other people and their circumstances. Obviously ours was horrific but now he’s carrying on with his life, whereas there’s people still struggling several years down the line.
“So in a way we are very fortunate with what he had.”