A miracle baby born without part of his brain has survived against the odds to celebrate his first birthday.

Danielle Frater, 28, from Stockton, said she was offered an abortion at 20 weeks because he had no cerebellum – the part of the brain which controls breathing.

The unborn baby also had severe hydrocephalus - a build-up of fluid in the brain - and she claims she was told if she went ahead with labour, he wouldn't live long.

Devastated Danielle planned his funeral while she was pregnant but decided to leave it up to "nature" and Koen Curtis was born at 36 weeks.

The Northern Echo: Koen Curtis.Koen Curtis. (Image: SWNS)

He had to have surgery to put a shunt in his brain - but miraculously survived.

And now the one-year-old is home from hospital and is able to smile and play - something skilled medics thought he'd never learn, Danielle says.

The proud stay at home mum-of-five said: "He’s doing brilliant; his hand coordination is brilliant. 

The Northern Echo: Koen with mum Daniella Frater, 28.Koen with mum Daniella Frater, 28. (Image: SWNS)

"They didn't think he'd be able to do any of this. We were told he’d be severely disabled.

“The neurologist said his progress is amazing. His reflexes are not a problem. 

“We don’t know if he’ll walk. I do believe he will in time. 

"Developmentally, he’s at the stage of a six-month-old.

“He’s still here. He’s a little fighter. Everyone's like 'he’s a miracle'.

The Northern Echo: Koen Curtis had surgery to put a shunt in his brain.Koen Curtis had surgery to put a shunt in his brain. (Image: SWNS)

"I would like to raise awareness for other parents that could be facing the same situation to not to give up on their babies as my child is proof."

Danielle first realised things were not going to be easy when she was 20 weeks pregnant in November 2022 and scans revealed he had no cerebellum.

“There was no hope for him,” she said.

"They told me if he does make it through childbirth, he’ll have a short life span and be severely disabled.

“I broke down. I was sat on the bus home in tears.

The Northern Echo: Daniella Frater and Koen Curtis.Daniella Frater and Koen Curtis. (Image: SWNS)

“I was going to plan his funeral while I was pregnant. I just wanted it in place. I wouldn’t have been in the right frame of mind to plan it."

Every time she went to hospital for a scan doctors asked her if she wanted an abortion but she defiantly said no, she claims.

“I don’t agree with abortions," she said. "If I were to abort it, it would have been like murdering him."

On March 9 2023 she gave birth to 7lb Koen via c-section.

To the doctors’ shock, Koen came out breathing but then it went “downhill”. 

Doctors told Danielle Koen needed a high-risk surgery to drain the fluid on his brain - to fit a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt.

It would drain the head of excess fluid into his stomach where it could be absorbed. 

She was told to prepare for the worst - call her family to the hospital to say their last goodbyes. 

“I just broke down," she said.

"I couldn’t think at all. I thought we were gonna lose him. I didn’t think there was any hope at all. I didn’t think he would make it through the night.

“We took the risk and had the operation. We were told he wouldn’t survive. Babies that have what he’s got, they don’t tend to survive.”

But somehow Koen did and after another operation on his stomach he was discharged home after a total of seven weeks in care.

Danielle also mum to a nine, seven, four and two year old, said: “I had to tell them that it was a really poorly baby."

Recommended reading:

Get more from The Northern Echo with a digital subscription. Get access for 4 months for just £4, or get 40% off an annual subscription with our latest offer. Click here.

Danielle's partner, Delroy Palmer-Walker, a 34-year-old chef, has taken time out of work to help with Koen as he needs “round-the-clock” care. 

But the neurologist who has kept tabs on his recovery said he’s a “miracle baby”, mum says.

Two months after he was discharged, Koen started to smile. 

Danielle said she’s expecting more disabilities to emerge as Koen gets older and added: "They don’t know how long he’ll live for.  We're taking each day as it comes."