LITTLE Kiama battler Dexter Heffernan is home and recovering strongly after a five-and-a-half hour operation on October 16 to remove a cancerous liver tumour.
The Kiama community rallied around the Heffernan family in June, raising more than $40,000 so that parents Andrew and Lenice Heffernan could be by the 18-month-old's side at Randwick Children's Hospital.
Mrs Heffernan said the surgery went as planned but Dexter's recovery had been slightly less smooth.
"Because it's Dexter, we knew the recovery would be a bit different [from what medical staff expected]," Mrs Heffernan said with good humour in relation to a series of health issues her son has had from birth.
Dexter's reaction to certain drugs meant he stopped breathing and had to be re-intubated (breathing through a tube) for a couple of days.
After six days in intensive care, Dexter was allowed home. He has some pain when he stands and sits but, aside from that, he is recovering well.
"He's doing much better now," Mrs Heffernan said.
"He goes to give us a smile and then remembers he's cranky with us and stops smiling."
On November 8 Dexter will have a CT scan after which its expected he will start his fifth round of chemotherapy, which will be his second last.
"We are hoping it will all be over and done by Christmas and well and truly by the time the new baby arrives in January," she said. "We are hoping for a hospital-free Christmas."
Mrs Heffernan's pregnancy with Dexter's sibling is on track, although she is being closely monitored because the causes for complications with Dexter while in utero are unknown.
Dexter's diagnosis came on top of a tough start which began when it was discovered he had a single umbilical artery.
As a result of Dexter's premature arrival (nine weeks before term), he had received only half a dose of the required glucocorticosteroids (steroid hormones) and his lungs were not prepared.
During his first year he fought pneumonia, anaemia and jaundice and endured ultrasounds, echo-cardiograms, X-rays, barium swallows, enemas, electroencephalograms, milk scans, blood work and endless tests.
When Dexter was four weeks old, his parents were told he had periventricular leukomalacia (a form of brain damage also known as PVL). Dexter also has cerebral palsy and is visually impaired.
Mrs Heffernan said the money raised at the Kiama Golf Club was put to good use and that she and her husband appreciated the well wishes of people who had since become aware of Dexter's trials. "It has been really good for both of us to be around for Dexter when he needed us and it has taken off a lot of the strain when bills arrived and things like that," she said.
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