A rugby-mad youngster born with a life-threatening defect has been recognised for tackling his condition head-on while excelling at the sport.
Nine-year-old Sam Walshaw, of Windsor Walk, South Anston, spent the first 10 weeks of his life on a ventilator in hospital.
Mum Clare was told at her 20-week scan her son had a congenital diaphragmatic hernia which meant Sam was born without a diaphragm.
At just five days old he had to undergo major surgery to put a gortex patch in to replace it.
Clare said: “We were told children born with CDH have a 50 per cent survival rate and if Sam did survive he would almost certainly have respiratory problems and wouldn’t be able to keep up with his peers.
“It was touch and go for the first few weeks. Sam really struggled to come off the ventilator but after 10 terrifying weeks in hospital he was discharged.”
Little Sam went on to amaze both his parents and hospital staff by suffering no long-term effects, meaning he could take part in energetic activities and sport – with rugby his favourite.
Starting with tag rugby, Sam joined Dinnington Rugby Clubs under-7s team and has now progressed to contact rugby, despite the risk a bad tackle or fall could tear his gortex patch.
Clare said: “We don’t want to wrap him in cotton wool – just playing in the yard at school poses the same risk.
“He loves rugby and being part of the team – he never misses training or a match.”
Now Sam’s determination and commitment has been rewarded with the Rob Hurdley Spirit of Rugby Trophy at Dinnington Rugby Club’s May Day celebrations.
The top accolade, named in memory of a former club coach, is awarded to a player who triumphs over adversity and demonstrates dedication to the sport.
Claire added: “We were incredibly proud of Sam – both his team mates and coaches have been great in supporting and encouraging him.
“It’s just amazing to think when he was born he couldn’t breathe for himself and now he’s a strong, active little boy.”