THE permanent smile on little Daniel McDonald's face says it all.
Against all odds, the Glendenning baby is making up for lost time at home after he spent the first 441 days of his life in hospital.
Daniel stopped growing in the womb and weighed 595 grams when born at 27 weeks to his mum Ann-Marie in November 2012.
He developed an infection in his bowel, a common condition in premature babies.
Ann-Marie and husband Hamish were told his chances of survival were slim and even if he did, there was a risk of developmental delays.
It was two days before Mrs McDonald saw her firstborn for the first time and had to wait another five days before she could hold him.
"I never felt so much so love when I saw him for the first time," she said. "I wish I could bottle it a million times over."
Daniel spent 5½ months in intensive care at Westmead Hospital before he was transferred to The Children Hospital at Westmead.
He had 60 per cent of his bowel removed which led to short gut syndrome. He has had 10 major operations and will need more as he gets older.
After two Christmases in hospital, he went home for the first time in February.
Now aged 18 months, Daniel is thriving despite countless hospital trips as a precaution.
He has started eating solids but will rely on a intravenous drip for another few years.
"He's the size of a nine-month-old and still requires a lot of medical attention," Mrs McDonald said.
"He has started crawling and can stand next to furniture. He loves playing, just like any other toddler his age. He never stops smiling, even when he's quite sick. He thinks he can win anyone over with a smile and if he doesn't have their attention, he will stare at them until they do."
Daniel has changed his family's outlook on life, including step-siblings Sean, 12, and Caitlin, 11.
"It makes you appreciate what you do," Mrs McDonald said. "You look at everything and turn it into a positive. Going for a walk with the pram and the first car ride are things parents often take for granted. We had to wait a lot longer to do those things."