CRADLED in her mother's arms, little Maisie Smith has overcome more than most to be here today. The 18-week-old was diagnosed with a diaphragm defect when she was in the womb, and doctors said she could be aborted. Her congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) meant organs slipped into her chest area, leaving little room for her lungs to grow. But after an operation not long after she was born, she is going "from strength to strength" – a tiny symbol of hope for others affected by the condition. Her mother, Amy Smith, 28, said: "She has one and a bit lungs so she has to work a bit harder than a normal baby would. "She isn't gaining enough weight at the moment, so she has to have a tube. "But she is getting there. She does everything else a normal baby should be doing at her age. I get quite emotional at times just by looking at her." Ms Smith recalled how Maisie was diagnosed with CDH, which affects about one in every 2,500 babies, after doctors at first though she had a cyst. She said: "We were then told to go for a scan at St George's Hospital where we were given the terrible news that our little girl did in fact have a right-sided congenital diaphragmatic hernia, and her chances were 50/50. "In Maisie's case her liver and bowel were in her chest. After being told that she had CDH, we were offered a termination, which quite took me aback. "I couldn't believe what the doctor was saying to me. I told him that wasn't even an option." Maisie was born on December 16, at 37 weeks, weighing 5lb and 4oz. She was whisked away to be intubated and had her operation on Boxing Day. Miss Smith added: "When I first saw her in intensive care, it was heartbreaking. Her body was shaking, but that was from the ventilation. "As the days went on Maisie improved and was able to have her operation to bring the liver and bowel down to where it should be and put a patch on the diaphragm so it doesn't happen again. "So the day after Boxing Day she went down for her operation. It was the longest few hours of my life. Since then Maisie has just gone from strength to strength." She added that she knew nothing about CDH before her baby was diagnosed, and wants more people to know about the condition in case they or their friends ever have to face it. She said the charity CDH UK (cdhuk.org.uk) had offered her a lot of support and advice. "I had not heard of it at all and it is so scary, because the doctors said to us you cannot know how good or how bad her lungs are until she is there. "So we had to wait until she was here to see how she was going to be. It was terrifying." Now back at home with her siblings and father, Billy Palmer, Maisie is "the best baby", according to her mother. She added: "She sleeps through the night and is always, always smiling. It melts my heart because she has been through so much yet she is always, always smiling. I am welling up just talking to you."
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