THE family of two-year-old Elie Madden who underwent life-saving surgery in Boston last December to 'grow' a new oesophagus have spoken of their "pride and delight" at having their daughter home this Christmas.
The Dublin toddler twin was born with tracheooesophageal fistula, a digestive disorder that left her without a complete oesophagus.
A 5cm gap between her oesophagus and stomach prevented her from being able to eat, drink or swallow without medical equipment, and she had to be constantly monitored to prevent her choking on her saliva.
She left Ireland in November last year and was placed in a coma for 35 days in Boston Children's Hospital while surgeons rejoined both ends of her oesophagus during a six-and-a-half hour operation.
After spending the first two years of her life in and out of the intensive care unit in hospital, this Christmas she's well enough to spend the festive period at home with her family.
"This time last year we were at her bedside in hospital as she was in a coma for five weeks," her mother, Esti, told the Irish Independent from the family home in Santry, Dublin.
"The previous Christmas she was only two months and also in hospital because she was a premature baby and really fragile."
Little Elie spent the first nine months of her life in Crumlin Children's Hospital in Dublin before she was offered the life-changing surgery in the US.
After seven operations, she had her first normal meal – vanilla pudding – last April, and also used her voice for the first time. However, her road to recovery has suffered a minor setback as she no longer eats food and must be fed through a tube.
"She's signed up for a weaning programme in Crumlin hospital which starts next year so hopefully she'll start eating and walking then."