AT JUST three months old, Oliver Webber had to undergo six-and-a-half hours of surgery to repair defects to his heart.

Ten months on and he is recovering well from that ordeal - but his parents Philip Webber and Emily Cottle fear he is facing another health battle.

Oliver, from Risca, is currently fed through a nasal tube into his stomach, initially fitted before his operation when he was taking milk through a bottle, to relieve the stress on his heart.

After this operation he was initially back feeding through a bottle, but was then put back on the nasal tube as his heart began to struggle again.

He has remained on it ever since, though the remaining hole in his heart that caused concern after his operation, has closed without requiring further surgery.

He has problems keeping milk down when fed through the nasal tube however, and has not put weight on for six months.

Mr Webber and Miss Cottle believe a gastrostomy - an operation to fit a feeding tube directly into his stomach - would help him retain more milk while any issues with swallowing and oral feeding are tackled.

But they told the Argus that they have been told Oliver might have to wait a year for such a procedure, and they fear for his health in the meantime.

Oliver is a patient with Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, though a gastrostomy would be carried out through a referral - yet to be made - to Cardiff and Vale University Health Board.

Oliver may not ultimately have to wait a year, depending on factors such as his ongoing health, but the uncertainty is a major worry for Mr Webber and Miss Cottle who say he is not thriving.

"He's behind in his development and we feel he's failing to thrive," said Miss Cottle.

"He's 13 months old and he can do what a six- or seven-month-old can do. He hasn't put weight on for six months."

Mr Webber said that having to be fed through the nasal tube is "a constant battle" for Oliver, and is distressing for him and them as well as being a challenge for them too, as parents.

"He vomits frequently, he pulls his tube out, he has to be supervised in the nights being fed, he also has constant stares from strangers wondering what is his problem," he said.

"We weren't happy with him having the tube in the first place, as he was taking a bottle, but it was deemed to be short term measure to relieve the stress on his heart due to the effort of feeding.

"Oliver’s heart is on the mend and he has nearly completed a full recovery, but we now faced with this problem with his feeding.

"We've told it could be a 12-month wait for a gastrostomy and that's an unacceptable length of time, not just for Oliver, but for any child."

For more on Oliver's story, visit https://www.facebook.com/oliversjourneyx/

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board cannot comment on the details of individual medical cases, but a spokesman said: "We are working with the family to ensure that we continue to deliver the best treatment and care for Oliver.”

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