A ROSYTH dad has paid tribute to his "heart princess warrior" after she underwent her THIRD open heart surgery at the age of just six.

Plucky Paige Blake was just 20-weeks-old in the womb when she was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare congenital defect where the left ventricle of the heart is severely under-developed.

The condition meant she had to have her first open-heart surgery to insert a shunt at just four-days-old and had another major procedure at four months.

She spent the first six months of her life at Yorkhill and her family came close to losing her several times – and were once even told she only had 48 hours to live.

On Thursday, the Park Road Primary youngster had a 10-and-a-half-hour operation at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow which dad John Blake and mum Claire McKenzie hope will be her last one for some time.

"She is a heart warrior princess. She struggles with certain things. She had a stroke when she was little and her left-hand side is weak. She uses a wheelchair to get her about long distance but that is part of Paige.

"We just want to get her back and get her back to normal."

"She's doing OK," said John. "She has been through the mill. This operation will make a difference. Basically, what happens is this operation is designed to give her more energy and also help with her colour.

"Before, she was a bluey-grey colour most of the time. My partner, Claire, and I could not believe it when we saw her straight after the operation. She was pink like a normal person.

"She is nearly seven now and this is hopefully her last surgery for a lot of years. The next thing is a heart transplant but that would be when she is older if she needs it. There are a lot of things that can happen before that because medicine is evolving really quickly at the moment.

"She is still in ICU – she is a fighter and she is as tough as old boots. She woke up just 12 hours after the actual surgery and as soon as she was awake, she wanted off that ventilator but she was not ready for that. But that is just Paige. She had got fight in her. She always has had. She needs that fight to get through."

She was taken off the ventilator within days and is continuing to make progress.

"She still has three chest drains in," explained John. "She is doing really well at the moment. They think she may have a little infection and they have also put her on high risk of sepsis. She is on two antibiotics as well going through her IV lines.

"She is a wee bit groggy at times but she is talking away. She likes to sing so she is singing to the doctors and nurses and she is really good. How long she is in is up to Paige. They don't know. It won't be anytime soon. It may be next week, it might be the next, we don't know."

For John and Claire, who also have Chloe, nine, and Michael, five, the operation was something they had been gearing up to for several months, if not years.

John, who works as an apprentice fabricator for Babcock Rosyth, added: "It is very hard. There has been a massive build-up to the operation. Through Paige's health and the hospital cancelling, it has been on and off and you have to build up for it.

"Two weeks ago, we were through and stayed the Monday night on the cardio ward and she was supposed to have the operation and it never happened. In a way, we are relieved it has now been done.