THERE can be little more devastating news for parents than being told their child is seriously ill.
That is just what hit Ray and Vicky Harris when they learned last year that their son, Dan, needed major open-heart surgery if he was to survive.
But Dan, now 10, was not going to be daunted by the prospect and he not only took the five-hour operation at the Brompton Hospital in London in his stride but surprised just about everyone by making an amazing recovery – and less than a year on is back leading a normal life.
So impressive was his story that he was nominated by the Brompton Fountain charity to head up a major fund raising campaign for the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
He is featuring this month on YouTube and is the face of the BHF's Bag It Beat It campaign.
The "little heroes" campaign urges people to donate bags of goods to the charity for sale in its shops or for recycling to help boost funds for research into helping the 40,000 children who like Dan, suffer from congenital heart disease.
Ray and Vicky who live with Dan and their other son, seven-year-old Robbie, in Plough Lane, Purley found out when he was baby that Dan had a heart murmur and a small hole in his heart.
But it was not until a scan nine years later they found the hole had grown and his heart had become seriously enlarged.
The only option was life-saving surgery which was performed by Professor Hideki Uemura in December last year.
Dan said: "I didn't really ever feel poorly but when I went into hospital and they told me about the operation I just said I wanted it done ASAP."
Once he came through successfully, his thoughts turned immediately to getting back to normal and most importantly to his beloved football –he plays for Old Coulsdon Colts and will be Crystal Palace's mascot at their home game against Chelsea next month.
He was due to spend three days in intensive care after the operation but came out after 10 hours.
Dan said: "I got bored really quickly and I went to the ward school because I love maths, particularly long division."
He admitted, a little shyly, that he wants to be an accountant when he grows up.
He was home after four days where his remarkable recovery continued.
Dan, a pupil at Margaret Roper school in Purley, was off school for six weeks and was banned from contact sport for three months.
He is now back on top form and picking up man of the match awards with his team.
And he does not have to return to the Brompton for two years for a check up.
His role in the BHF campaign sees him talking about his operation and showing off his scar in "Super Boy" style.
Dan said: "Filming for the first time was surprising. It was hard and long but I am proud to have done it."
His parents, too, are proud both of Dan's bravery and the role he is playing in helping the BHF's campaign.
Dad, Ray, said: "Nothing has gone to his head, his feet are still on the ground. He is still the same boy, he is just more lovely."
He said he and Vicky were pleased that Dan had been able to get involved in the BHF campaign.
He said: "It is a massive positive which has come out of something that was quite serious."
He was also full of praise for everyone involved with Dan at the Brompton.
Ray added: "A lot of people have said we are unlucky, I look at it as we have got a son who has been fixed.
"What Dan has been through is special but now he is a normal child doing normal things. What more could you wish for?"