LITTLE Cerys Small has a big smile on her face because despite a shaky start in life she is finally on the road to recovery.

The 19-month-old toddler, who was born with multiple complex heart defects and is kept alive thanks to daily doses of Viagra, took her first steps two months ago.

And thanks to the removal of a feeding tube in her nose and throat earlier this month the brave youngster is now starting to string sentences together - one of her favourite phrases being: "I want to walk".

Cerys’ parents Gareth and Kerrie both 32, say she has come on leaps and bounds in the past few months, especially since she underwent an operation to fit a feeding tube directly into her stomach on August 2.

Heart specialists are so impressed with her progress they say they do not need to see her for another nine months.

They also hope to eventually wean her off Viagra - most commonly used for treating sexual dysfunction in men - which helps her blood circulate around her body more easily.

Her mum, of Maesglas, said: "It’s lovely because people do not stare any more. She’s talking a lot more and wanting to eat more herself.

"She’s doing absolutely fab considering what the doctors told us she could be like. When I was pregnant the prognosis was grim, we didn’t even know if she would still be with us now. They advised us seven times to have a termination.

"She’s been through a hell of a lot in 19 months and she’s still got a long road to go down, but when you look at how she is now it makes you really grateful that we didn’t listen and we did carry on with the pregnancy."

Doctor’s discovered Cerys had a hole in her heart during Mrs Small's 20-week pregnancy scan and gave her a 50 per cent chance of survival.

But the toddler, who was also born without a spleen and takes six tablets a day to manage her condition, proved she was fighter undergoing three open-heart operations all before she was five months old, and continues to amaze doctors with her resilience. Cerys, who has a brother Evan, eight, and sister Megan, nine, will eventually have to undergo more heart surgery in a few years' time but for now the family are happy she is making good progress.