A DESPERATELY-ill baby was saved by a world-first operation on her heart while it was just the size of a grape.
Rheya Tooke was diagnosed with three deadly defects when she was only 10 days old.
Doctors said the 5lb infant was too small to survive an operation on a hole in her heart, a vessel that leaked blood into her lungs and a malformed artery.
But they feared she was too weak to live without it.
So in keyhole surgery never before performed on a child so young, pioneering cardiologist Dr Joseph Vettukattil made a tiny incision in her chest to temporarily clip the leaky vessel and pass a tube in her artery to boost blood flow.
It allowed Rheya to grow stronger before having the main operation four months later.
Dr Vettukattil, of Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust in Hampshire, said: "The aim was to get blood to the right places and to close the hole in her heart, but she was too small to withstand surgery.
"Her heart was the size of a small grape. The keyhole procedure allowed us to buy time and to let her grow a little before the major operation."
Rheya is now six months old and thriving at home with parents Dave, 35, and Claire, 31, after a nine-hour operation to permanently correct her ailments.
Decorator Dave, of Chichester, West Sussex, said: "The risk paid off and our beautiful daughter's alive. It's incredible to think how small her heart was.
"The doctors were first class, we can't thank them enough."