TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Looking at Xavier, now a smiling one year-old, it would be hard to believe he was born at 36 weeks unable to eat or gain weight.
The struggles Xavier has endured in his young life certainly don't show on his face.
His smile shows love, joy and his strong spirit, as he's had to deal with things that most children his age don't have to face.
Xavier suffers from esophageal stricture, which means his esophagus narrows causing extreme acid reflux.
Thanks to the doctors and nurses and Mercy Children's Hospital, Xavier continues to smile and grow like any other one-year-old.
"After surgeries and after dilations, he's always smiling," said Dr. Heather Meade, MD, Xavier's doctor. "After his major stomach surgery, like two hours later he was smiling and laughing. You couldn't even tell that he just came from surgery."
Once Xavier's esophageal stricture heals, he will have another stomach surgery to help with the acid reflux.
"He'll just be smiling again," said Michaela Morely-Berning, Xavier's mom.
For Xavier and his mom, the staff at Mercy Children's was like family during these tough times.
"He recognizes the nurses and all of the doctors and everything," Morely-Berning said.
Xavier is especially acquainted with two of his nurses because they are his grandmothers.
"Both of this grandmas work with us, which is a unique situation," said Dr. Meade. "Normally, we don't know all of the family members. We love working with them and we get updates all of the times about him."
Xavier's mom says having this support is like a blessing through this year-long journey, especially with her husband away serving in the United States Army.
"A year ago when I was pregnant with him, if you would have told me all this would have gone on, I would have lost my mind," Morely-Berning said.
Xavier's dad is grateful to have the caring staff at Mercy Children's looking out for his family, too.
"I'm just glad that there are so many people that do what they do, that way you can pretty much sit back and be at ease as they work their magic," said Xavier's dad.
This peace of mind comes with the family support and care from the doctors, nurses and grandmothers at Mercy Children's.
"He's a big-time fighter," Dr. Meade said. "He's been through a lot, but he's still a happy little guy and he definitely has gotten through all of this with a smile on his face."
A smile that is contagious, and growing as he is.