PARENTS have thanked a charity for their help after their newborn baby was rushed into lifesaving surgery.

Leanne and Richard Richards' son Joshua was born at Broomfield Hospital but was raced to a London hospital when doctors saw he was struggling to breathe.

A scan of the Braintree youngster's chest showed there was a large mass pushing his heart into his lungs and causing the breathing difficulties.

A second X-ray confirmed Joshua had congenital diaphragmatic hernia - his diaphragm had failed to form correctly meaning his intestines were in his chest cavity and were putting pressure on his heart and lungs.

It meant just two hours after his arrival he had an emergency transfer to The Royal London Children’s Hospital to save his life.

Mrs Richards: "We felt like our lives shattered into a million pieces when we found out that our baby had just a 50 percent chance of surviving the major operation he needed to save his life.

"Doctors advised us that even if he survived the operation, it was likely that Joshua would suffer from health complications such as congenital heart disease and problems with his lungs and breathing, as a result of them being squashed in his chest.

"My husband went home to pack our bags and be with our daughter, Isabella, who was only two at the time and needed one of us in the house whilst my parents drove me straight to London as soon as I was discharged.

"I was in shock and just needed to be with Joshua."

A scan at 20 weeks had previously shown Joshua's heart had formed on the wrong side of his body but cardiologists reassured the parents that his heart was fine.

The operation was a success but a week after surgery Joshua collapsed in the middle of the night with suspected sepsis and needed fluid resuscitation.

He was eventually discharged and his parents have thanked The Sick Children’s Trust who supported the family while he was seriously ill.

Mrs Richards said: "I assumed we would be staying in a hotel as we were an hour and a half from home but at this point booking and paying for a hotel was the last thing on my mind.

"When I arrived on the ward where my baby was being treated, and had seen with my own eyes that he was stable, I spoke to a nurse who told me about the trust’s ‘Home from Home’ Stevenson House."

Stevenson House supports families with sick children being treated at The Royal London Children’s Hospital in London.

Mrs Richards said: "She handed me a key and said that there was a team of people over there who would show us around and support us in whatever way they could, giving my family a room, and that it was completely free of charge.

"Even with everything going on I felt I huge sense of relief."