A north-east teenager who was the smallest baby in Britain to survive open heart surgery is set to celebrate a very special birthday.
Jade McWilliam has battled the odds throughout her life and has undergone numerous surgeries – the first when she was just 15 days old.
However, the student nurse, who lives in Kintore with dad Ian, 49, mum Margaret, 44, and sister Iona, 14, will now be joined by her family and friends as she celebrates turning 18 tomorrow.
She said: “I feel quite old. But it’s a nice milestone and I am really looking forward to it.
“I’m going out for a meal with my family and my friends are all wanting me to go out in town for it as well.”
Jade, who has overcome the odds to raise thousands of pounds for charities including the British Heart Foundation (BHF), as well as becoming a black belt in karate at the age of 14, admitted she still struggles to get to grips with others looking up to her.
She said: “It does feel weird to me that people see me as an inspiration because I don’t feel any different to anyone else.
“But if I’m making a difference and helping other people to feel positive it’s a really nice feeling.
“Knowing that people look up to me feels strange because I don’t think I’ve done anything unusual.
“I just want to raise as much money for the BHF as I can. Without them I wouldn’t be here.”
Margaret admitted she sometimes cannot believe her daughter will become an adult after all the hurdles she has tackled in her life.
She said: “I do get emotional thinking that Jade is going to be 18 because there were times where we never thought we would see her 18th birthday.
“She has already done her first nursing placement which she loved.
“She always came back with a smile on her face and that was amazing because from a very young age that’s what she wanted to do.
“I still remember the day she was born like it was yesterday.
“Jade has been fighting since she was a tiny baby.
“She had a cardiac arrest when she was 15 days old and she has been through so much but she is so strong.
“We are over the moon to be able to celebrate her birthday with her.”
Having overcome so many obstacles, Margaret believes Jade is doing something not just for herself but for the thousands of people in the north-east who suffer from heart disease.
She said: “I have had people crying because Jade is just an inspiration to us all.
“Through all the work she has done for the charities and things like that, she has given herself and people like her a future.
“54,000 people in the north-east have some kind of heart condition and Jade is helping all of them as well.
“I cried when she left school and I cried when she put on her nurse’s uniform for the first time because at one stage those were milestones we weren’t sure we’d reach.”
Jade has also had the chance to thank some of the people who saved her life – air ambulance pilot Rory MacDonald and surgeon James Pollock.
Margaret added: “We actually had the chance to meet the pilot who flew her to hospital for that operation. “We also got to meet her heart surgeon when he retired.
“When she had her first surgery there was an 80% chance that she wouldn’t survive or that there would be some kind of complications, such as a stroke.
“We knew that at the time that it was such a huge risk and we are so grateful to have her here with us now.”