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Mother of young liver transplant patient talks about Christmas at Birmingham Children’s Hospital
Via Stephanie for Birmingham Children’s Hospital
December 2021: While children across the world look forward to receiving toys for Christmas, a 10-month-old little girl from Belfast was awaiting something a lot more precious last year; a new liver that would save her life.
Ellie Cowan, now nearly two years old, was born in her family’s hometown, Belfast, last February (2020). What should have been an exciting and special moment for her parents, Ashleigh and David, soon turned into a nightmare. Instead of being able to cuddle their new baby girl, she was instead rushed to the intensive care unit at her local children’s hospital after the midwives noticed that her tummy was very swollen. Investigations discovered that Ellie had a hole in her bowel.
That same night, she received surgery to have half of her bowel removed and was given a stoma. Ashleigh and David were in turmoil. They thought they’d be bringing their little girl home, instead, they were anxiously waiting for her to come out of major surgery. Following the operation, Ellie spent the next three months in hospital and just when her parents thought she was well enough to finally go home, she became increasingly jaundiced. It was at this point Ellie has flown via emergency air ambulance over 350 miles away to Birmingham Children’s Hospital for specialist care.
The hospital is home to the UK’s premier paediatric Liver Unit, which is one of the busiest in the world. Highly-specialised treatment is delivered to children with all forms of liver disease, including Biliary Atresia, a rare and life-threatening liver disease which Ellie was diagnosed with soon after arriving at the hospital.
Procedures to try and support Ellie’s liver function failed, and Ashleigh and David were told she would need a life-saving liver transplant. Ashleigh comments:
To hear this news was a complete blow. For her age, Ellie had already gone through more than most, and to hear she would need a transplant was utterly terrifying. We were so far from home and it was getting closer to Christmas, which only added to our worries.
As Ellie was so small, we were told she needed to put weight on before she could receive the transplant. Due to her liver damage and her shorter gut, this proved to be a vicious cycle, but in October, we were finally placed on the transplant list.
It was only eight weeks later, on 22nd December, that they received the magical call to say that Ellie was getting her transplant.
It was the greatest Christmas gift we have ever received, the transplant was a success and Ellie has gone from strength to strength since. She is now full of mischief and loves to dance and play with her big brother.
We will be forever thankful to the hospital, the donor and his family for giving our baby a second chance at life. We now have so many Christmases to look forward to together as a family.”
Miranda Williams, Head of Public Fundraising at Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity, said:
The staff at our hospital make magic happen every single day by saving the lives of and caring for brave patients like Ellie. At Christmastime, it’s even more important for our charity to help add some sparkle around the hospital for families spending the festive season with us.
We need supporters to make sure our hospital can remain a place where magic happens. Donations help to create exciting and family-friendly environments, purchase life-saving equipment and fun life-changing research into childhood diseases. With the help of the public, we can continue to give the sick kids in our hospital’s care the best experience possible and outcomes.”
If you would like to donate to Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity’s Christmas Appeal, please visit bch.org.uk/christmas