Sent home to die from a tumour as a baby, Amy celebrates her 21st birthday
A mother whose daughter was "sent home to die" as a baby has celebrated her 21st birthday by publicly thanking the surgeons who saved her life.
Amy Patterson, from Limavady, was a perfectly healthy and happy baby before developing a deadly tumour at just 16 months old.
But after a stay in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital back in 1996, Hazel and her husband Trevor were told their daughter's illness was incurable.
Hazel (48), told the Belfast Telegraph: "Amy was sent home to die.
"It was heartbreaking for us. I was pregnant at the time with Amy's sister, Hannah, and we couldn't wrap our heads around losing our daughter.
"It was so difficult to watch her suffer, especially because she deteriorated so quickly."
On her release from hospital Amy was suffering from pain so intense that her parents were not even allowed to hold or touch her and had to move her around by the four corners of a little sheet which she lay on all the time.
The poorly tot lost her mobility and let out cries which Hazel said sounded like those of an animal as the tumour attacked her spine.
Desperate for an alternative solution, Hazel and Trevor made contact with a surgeon at Birmingham Children's Hospital who arranged for Amy to return to the Royal for more tests and then to be flown to Birmingham for a consultation.
Hazel, who is a nurse, explained: "We didn't know if Dr Tony Hockley would be able to help us and he made no promises that he could, but speaking to him gave us hope for the first time in weeks that Amy might survive.
"When we met with Dr Hockley he told us he was going to take Amy into surgery.
"He told us if there was nothing he could do then the surgery wouldn't last long but the longer he was in there, the better.
"Amy went into surgery at 8am and didn't come back until 9pm."
Amazingly the operation, which was performed by Dr Tony Hockley and Downpatrick's Dr Gerry O'Reilly, saved Amy's life.
"Wee miracle" Amy then went on to fight off a further 12 life-threatening conditions including meningitis and septicaemia during her seven-week recovery period and on her return to Northern Ireland she was featured in the Belfast Telegraph.
Now the happy language and linguistics student has just celebrated her 21st birthday.
Hazel said: "We are just so grateful to both Dr Hockley, who is now deceased, and Northern Ireland's own Dr O'Reilly for giving us 21 amazing years with our daughter.
"We were told that her condition could return and there was a time I never dreamt that Amy would live to see her 21st birthday, but now here she is.
"The surgery that saved Amy's life was pioneering at the time and her case notes travelled the world with Dr Hockley.
Amy celebrated her 21st birthday on October 3 and hopes to become a special needs teacher.
She lives in Myroe, Limavady, with her mum, sister Hannah (19), brother James (8) and dad Trevor (50), who owns and manages Crindle Stables.
The family offer special services which allow disabled children to come to the stables and ride horses.