FOR Sarah Hext, the news that her son had to have open-heart surgery came as a big shock.

But the mum-of-four knew before his birth that Benjamin's heart had not fully developed.

And since he was born he had returned to hospital for a number of treatments.

Now, after a series of visits including several to specialist units in Oxford Benjamin is a happy, bouncy two-year-old, although his condition slows him down occasionally, leaving him breathless and tired.

And the 30-year-old full-time mum, of Beech Avenue, Pinehurst, wants to share her experiences to help others.

She has set up a new group for Swindon parents with under-fives who suffer from congenital heart defects.

The group, called Tiny Tickers, is set to launch next week.

Sarah, who is married to John, and also has Benjamin's twin Max, Sebastian, five, and three-year-old Elizabeth, said: "I had been using an internet site which allows parents who have children with similar defects to talk about them.

"But you find that sometimes you get more information than you really want.

"This way parents can get together and have a cup of tea and share advice and their experiences.

"You find often that talking about these things with people who have been through it, rather than a doctor or a nurse, can be a real weight off the mind.

"There are a lot of parents in the Swindon area with children with such congenital heart defects, such as holes in the heart or that the heart has not developed properly, so I hope there is a lot of interest in such a scheme."

Congenital heart defects are classed as structural problems with the heart at birth.

In Benjamin's case he suffers from a condition known as double outlet right ventricle, but his twin, Max, was born completely healthy.

The DORV covers a wide range of heart defects, putting his heart under increased pressure and Benjamin often finds himself breathless or tired after a little bit of exercise.

But there is no cure and any treatment doctors give him will be palliative, although ultimately he could have a heart transplant.

Sarah said: "The defect does hold him back a little.

"He only properly learned to walk at two, and he can get tired quickly, which frustrates him sometimes but he has made great progress in the last year."

Tiny Tickers will hold its first get-together on Tuesday from 9.30am to 11.30am at the Sure Start Centre, in Beech Avenue.

To find out more about Tiny Tickers call Sarah on 01793 692938.