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18 / 07 / 2011 - Doctors told us to abort our little girl as she wouldn`t survive birth - but our little fighter has flourished
Before she was even born, doctors said there was little chance Charley-Marie Skinner's would survive her birth.
Scans showed a massive tumour covering the entire left chamber of her heart that was restricting blood flow.
Specialists were convinced she would die in the womb and advised her parents Heather and Andy, from Darwen, Lancashire, to terminate their baby.
They refused, saying they would rather let her die naturally than go through the trauma of an abortion.
The couple were told to start making funeral arrangements and even bought a moulding kit to make prints of their baby's hands and feet as a reminder of their child.
They were forced to break the tragic news to their five other children that they would not be welcoming a new baby sister.
The couple already knew they were having a girl after full-time mother Heather, 27, went for a 20 week scan at Burnley General Hospital - but the tumour was missed.
It was spotted just over a week later when she went for another scan to check the growth of the baby because some of Heather's older children had been born abnormally small.
Heather and Andy were transferred immediately to St Mary's Hospital, Manchester, to see a specialist.
Heather said: 'When the doctor said there was nothing they could do and that I needed a termination, I just said: 'no way.'
'I didn't want an abortion. I wanted nature to take it's course. The thought of losing my baby was awful. I didn't know how to deal with it.
'We were left in a room and just cried.'
When they got home, a specialist midwife was assigned to them to help them cope with their inevitable loss.
Heather added: 'We bought a moulding kit to make prints of her hands and feet. We also got two identical blankets - one to wrap her in when she was born that we would keep and the other to bury her in.
'It was heartbreaking having to tell the children. They were so quiet.
'Every day we wondered if today would be the day she died inside me.'
But against the odds, Charley-Marie, now 19 months old, astounded medics and clung on to life.
She was born in January 2010 three weeks premature by Caesarean section at Blackburn Royal Hospital.
Heather said: 'All I wanted was to see her eyes. The doctors still said that she would die as the tumour was so big it would stop the blood flow around her heart.
'But she cried, she was breathing and doing everything that a newborn does.
'Straight away they took her down to the neonatal intensive care unit and scanned her heart. The tumour was inside the entire left chamber but somehow her little heart was still finding a way to pump blood around.'
The first 48 hours were were critical and her parents were left not knowing if their daughter would make it.
However, scans showed that Charley-Marie's heart had actually grown to make room for the tumour.
Three days after she was born, the couple were allowed to take her home.
Council worker Andy, 51, said: 'We came home and just in the car on the drive way. We didn't know what to do next.
'We were numb. We hadn't bought anything for her - just the clothes and blanket to bury her in.'
The couple even brought their wedding forward because doctors warned Charley-Marie would not see her first birthday.
Heather said: 'We'd planned a big, white wedding in our local Cathedral but we wanted Charley-Marie there so we got married when she five-weeks-old.'
The baby was diagnosed with the rare, life threatening condition Tuberous Sclerosis, which causes benign tumours to grow on vital organs, when she was five-months-old.
There is no cure and the couple were told an operation wouldn't help.
Heather said: 'We were told it was the largest tumour they had ever seen at the hospital.'
As Tuberous Sclerosis is a genetic condition, the family asked to be tested for it.
It revealed that Andy and the couple's daughter Emma-Jean also have the condition.
Scans showed three-year-old Emma-Jean has a tumour behind her left eye and two smaller ones in her heart. Their son Alfie, two, does not have the condition.
Andy has had several benign tumours during his life but it was never known why until Charley-Marie's diagnosis.
Heather and her three children from a previous relationship - nine-year-old twins James and Jessica and Jennifer, eight - did not need to be tested.
When Charley-Marie reached her first milestone, the family celebrated with a party and fireworks.
Heather said: 'She's our little miracle. She's proved everyone wrong and shown she's a fighter.
'They have no idea how Charley-Marie's heart will cope as she gets older. They don't think that the tumour will ever shrink but may in fact grow with her. We just have to watch her and hope for the best.
'She's just started walking and sometimes she gets out of breath, which worries me, but she's like any girl her age. She's loves Peppa Pig and always has a cheeky smile on her face.
'Finding out that Emma-Jean and Andy have Tuberous Sclerosis has definitely saved their lives as now we know what to watch out for and they can be closely monitored for any problems.'
Source: Daily Mail