Father Gets Tattoo On Chest To Match His Son’s Heart Surgery Scar

by : Julia Banim on :
Dad has tattoo to match son's scar.SWNS

A doting dad has gone above and beyond to make sure his young son stayed proud of his heart surgery scar, having a matching one inked on his own chest.

Martin Watts, 37, from Beverley, East Yorkshire didn’t want his little boy to feel self-conscious about the 9cm scar he was left with following risky open heart surgery.


Six-year-old Joey was born with supravalvular aortic stenosis, a rare heart defect which causes the narrowing of the large vessel by which blood from the heart reaches the rest of the body.

Dad has tattoo to match son's scar.SWNS

On May 23, Joey underwent an eight hour procedure at Leeds Children’s Hospital to widen the narrow blood vessel.

The little boy was only given a one in ten chance of surviving the life-saving surgery, an operation which has thankfully so far proven successful.


Joey’s older brother, seven-year-old Harley, also has supravalvular aortic stenosis, and will be having the same operation later on this year.

Dad has tattoo to match son's scar.SWNS

Joey’s mum Leanne Watts, 40, found out Joey had supravalvular aortic stenosis while she was 28 weeks pregnant with him. With Harley, she found out 14 weeks after his birth.

Leanne has spoken of the severity of the condition facing her two young boys:


I was told they both could pass away at any given point. Joey’s condition progressed rapidly. They said if we didn’t try something now the inevitable will be sooner rather than later.

It’s not what you want to hear, however, if you are told you will lose your son if you don’t at least try, you have to put things into perspective. It was really scary and we both had reservations but I’m so glad we did choose to go ahead.

On the day of the surgery, I was numb, I was scared. You just don’t know what to think. You want to trust people but you have your reservations.

You know they are in good hands. The amount of people that were in theatre that day, you just knew they were prepared for the worst possible outcome.

Leanne added:

You take comfort from the way surgeons at Leeds handled things with Joey.

It will be just as scary but they have given you reason to believe. I thought superheroes wore capes, they don’t, they wear surgical scrubs and gowns.

It’s a very rare condition and is linked to William’s Syndrome. For some reason, the boys don’t have William’s Syndrome but they have the heart condition of a child with William’s.

Dad has tattoo to match son's scar.SWNS

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The very next day after ‘little fighter’ Joey was discharged from hospital, Martin decided to have the heart surgery scar tattooed on his own chest as a show of fatherly solidarity.

Heading to a local tattoo parlour, Martin had a tattoo done which looked precisely like the scar on Joey’s chest, as well as the image of his heartbeat.

Praising Martin’s heartfelt tattoo, Leanne said:

It’s absolutely fantastic, it just shows him it’s nothing to be scared of and that he should be proud of what he has achieved in life. It’s not easy for a six-year-old boy or any child of any age to have that type of surgery.

When Joey saw the scar, he just said, ‘is this where they have cut me to fix my heart’? We’ve told him it should be something to be proud of and he shouldn’t be ashamed by what has happened to him. All of these warriors should be proud of their scars and all they achieve in life.

Dad has tattoo to match son's scar.SWNS

Martin has decided to share pictures of the scars as part of #ScarSelfie, a campaign ran by the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund (CHSF).

#ScarSelfie aims to empower and celebrate the bravery of congenital heart disease (CHD) patients who bear scars following surgical procedures.

Supporters of this campaign are encouraged to donate to the CHSF, which gives support to Leeds Children’s Hospital’s Congenital Heart Unit.

Dad has tattoo to match son's scar.SWNS

Speaking about the #ScarSelfie campaign, CEO of CHSF Sharon Milner said:

We fully understand that showing a scar picture is a very personal decision and not for everyone. However, we have run this campaign in previous years and know the positive message it brings.

We are blown away by the bravery and resilience of the hundreds of CHD patients who undergo open-heart surgery and life-saving procedures at the Leeds Congenital Heart Unit every day – like Joey.

This campaign is one way of celebrating the incredible stories of these heart warriors. Please do take part if you can, and support our wonderful cause by way of donations.

What an incredible father and son team Martin and Joey are. UNILAD wishes Joey all the best as he recovers from his operation.

If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: Health, Leeds, Tattoo