When a child was diagnosed with a serious heart condition in the 1940s, all doctors could tell parents was to treasure the time they had with their baby.
But when an American doctor offered a Liverpool mum a fighting chance for her sick daughter – with the risk she could die on the operating table – she suddenly had a choice.
She took the risk – and, this week, Mary Daniel celebrated her 80th birthday.
Mary, who lives in Birkenhead, said she will remember the day of her operation, on April 27, 1949, “for all her life”.
She said: “My mum cried all the way on the train up to Myrtle Street Children’s Hospital. I didn’t expect to see her again but I just knew I had to have this operation.
“I remember the night before, being on the ward and there was a roller rink outside that had music on.
“I wondered to myself: ‘Will I ever hear music again?’- I didn’t think I would wake up from the operation.
“There was a boy in the bed next to me and he wouldn’t survive what he had, I often think about him.”
In 1949, heart surgery was a dangerous procedure with a high risk of brain damage, as the heart had to be stopped and the blood-oxygen supply cut.
Unlike today, there was no machinery to keep the heart beating and, in some cases, patients were put in ice-cold baths to slow their metabolisms sufficiently to allow enough time for work on the heart to be completed.
Mary had been diagnosed with a heart murmur at five years old by her school doctor, which would later be diagnosed as a leak in the heart called Paten Ductus Arteriosus.
Her mum Agnes had been told there was no treatment and her daughter would not see past her 17th birthday.
She added: “At school, they would tell me to take it easy and used to stop me doing certain things – but I didn’t really understand why, because I never felt ill.
“In those days, children were dying all around me from tuberculosis and polio – so I was just seen as another ill child.”