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Farah Bycroft, 5, from North Walsham, returned home triumphant having won the 25m Dash gold medal at the Westfield Health British Transplant Games in Medway, Kent, 4 years after having a life-saving liver transplant. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY
By ALEX HURRELL
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
The Paralympics might be in full swing but liver-transplant miracle Farah Bycroft is already home in north Norfolk with her athletics gold medal.
Today, Farah is a fizzing, fun-loving five-year-old, very proud of the gongs she earned at last month’s Westfield Health British Transplant Games in Kent.
She owes her health to a precious gift from her grandma, Carol Morris, who donated a piece of her liver to save Farah’s life in a pioneering transplant operation at St James’s Hospital, Leeds, in January 2008.
Farah is most proud of her transplant games gold medal for the 25m dash.
“She completely stormed it,” said mum Jo Bycroft, 40, of Queensway, North Walsham, who works at the town’s Millfield Pre-School.
The race commentator, revelling in the coincidence of the little winner’s first name and Olympic champ Mo Farah’s surname, had the spectators on their feet doing the now-famous Mobot victory pose in her honour.
But it has been a harrowing haul to health for Farah, who was diagnosed as a very young baby with biliary atresia – a rare disease in which the tubes draining liquid bile from the liver are progressively destroyed.
“The first thing I asked was: ‘Am I going to lose her?’” Ms Bycroft recalled. A corrective operation called the Kasai procedure was unsuccessful and a consultant warned that Farah’s only chance lay in a liver transplant.
“It’s your worst nightmare. You hear stories all the time about there never being enough donors and time was of the essence. She was gradually getting worse – she had no energy whatsoever. It was awful to see.”
As days passed, Ms Bycroft learned about the possibility of a living donor. Her mother, Mrs Morris, then 57, volunteered and was found to be a good match. Ms Bycroft recalled an agonising few hours when the transplant operation was postponed for a day because the theatres were full.
That night, the consultant told them that the liver of a dead man had become available, but its size could cause complications for tiny Farah.
Mrs Morris insisted that she still wanted to proceed and the operation, the first of its kind in the UK, went ahead.
The man’s liver instead helped an adult on the transplant list.
But the nail biting did not end with Farah’s transplant as she later needed another operation to correct a kink where arteries had been joined.
Since then, helped every day by drugs, Farah’s health has continued to improve and her grandma has made a complete recovery.
Ms Bycroft said the most moving part of the transplant games opening parade had been the entrance of the donor families, who had received a roof-raising cheer.
She added: “I know the impact those donors have made because my child’s life has been saved. Something like 96pc of us would accept a donated organ, but only 28pc are registered donors.”
To join the NHS Organ Donor Register, call 03001232323, text SAVE to 84118 or visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk – and discuss your wishes with family and friends.