The parents of a nine-month-old baby who received life-saving heart surgery in the Republic thanks to cross-border cooperation have told of their relief after their son's procedure was a resounding success.
Miracle child Riley Patterson from Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone, is currently making a promising recovery following an operation to repair two holes in his heart at Children's Health Ireland (CHI) in Crumlin earlier this week.
Had he not had surgery in Dublin, the little boy was in danger of suffering heart failure.
"When they opened him up Riley surprised us because he had an extra hole in the heart," his mother Victoria said.
"They were able to, thankfully, close the two holes. So far, it has been a great success and he's now out of intensive care."
Riley's mum was just 28 weeks pregnant when he was born prematurely last June, weighing a mere 1lb 12 ounces, and he was so little his father could slip his wedding ring onto his leg.
"He was very tiny, one of the smallest in Belfast in recent years," dad John told RTE.
"My wedding ring actually fitted over his leg when he was first born."
Staff at NHS hospitals in Craigavon and Belfast have played a crucial role in keeping Riley alive after he was given only a 20% chance of survival.
It was hard to breathe let alone stand when they took him off us at the theatre doors, because of Covid-19 we couldn't go in like last time so it was a lot harderVictoria Patterson
In keeping with cross-border arrangements, the surgical team at CHI was on hand when Riley needed an urgent operation, despite his parents' fears that he mightn't be able to receive the care he needed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Riley is still in recovery in Dublin and the Pattersons are hugely grateful for the care he has received on both sides of the border.
Victoria and John, who are with their little boy, hope that moving him to a Belfast hospital may be an option in the coming days.
The couple also said they would love to have him home in Aughnacloy for his first birthday in June.
Writing on her Facebook page on Wednesday, Victoria kept family and friends informed of his progress.
"Riley had his open heart surgery on Monday to fix the hole in his heart," she wrote.
"Riley is still currently in intensive care but was able to come off the ventilator last night, he is still requiring oxygen but hoping they can start to reduce the support he needs down throughout the next few days."
Describing events in the hospital on Monday as "unbearable", Victoria spoke of her pain at not being by her son's side during surgery.
"It was hard to breathe let alone stand when they took him off us at the theatre doors, because of Covid-19 we couldn't go in like last time so it was a lot harder. Messages of support were a huge help to us and a distraction so thank you to anyone that done this."
Victoria said that "this past year has been a rollercoaster of emotions".
She added: "We just can't believe this surgery is now over.
"Riley is a miracle and amazes us every single day!
"We still have a journey ahead of us and like any parents we don't know what lies ahead!
"We are thankful we know and trust the one that does."
Victoria also said that "as Christian parents" they "just want to take this time to publicly thank anyone that has prayed for us as a family".
She specifically referred to "friends who have lifted us up, family for being amazing especially our parents and siblings/in-laws".
Victoria added: "We will never, ever forget the kindness and love that has been shown to us."