‘Bobby was on 14 different medications a day just to keep him alive - I grabbed chance to save him with a piece of my liver’
The family of a toddler who is alive because his aunt donated part of her liver to him want to encourage other families with sick children to never give up hope.
“Bobby was on 14 different medications a day just to keep him alive. He was in intensive care for the days before his transplant and they were very scary days,” said his mum, Kerrie-Anne McKenna.
Bobby, now 19 months old, is full of beans and his “hero” aunt is Dawn McKenna.
“I grabbed the chance to help him with both hands,” said Dawn (24). “I donated 20pc of my left lateral of my liver. It was not a tough decision to make because it was my nephew’s life that was on the line.”
The transplant took place six months ago in Kings College Hospital in London. “Those nine hours in surgery were very hard and Noel, my husband, was my rock,” said Kerrrie-Anne
“The surgeon said Dawn’s liver was so perfect, beautiful and healthy and it was a perfect match for him.”
Kerrie-Anne and Noel – who is Dawn’s brother – said that Bobby was jaundiced when he was born and soon after he was diagnosed with biliary atresia.
At seven weeks of age he had his gall-bladder removed and his liver was reattached to his intestine to see if it would drain bile that way. It didn’t work, and by August of last year they were told he had to go onto the active donor list.
With no sign of a deceased donor, the family decided to consider a living donor and they all had blood tests to see if they could find a suitable match.
“I had a gut feeling that I would be the one to give it,” said Dawn. “I was scared of course, but you have to be brave and think of the child and the chance you have to save a life. I grabbed it with both hands.”
In January, Bobby became sicker and was spending more time in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin. He was flown to Kings College Hospital and the surgeon advised the transplant go ahead as soon as possible.
Bobby’s life has changed for the better since his surgery on January 29.
Physically he is slightly behind other children his age, Kerrie-Anne said, but “it wont be long before he has caught up with them”.
“He is eating really well and the doctors are thrilled with him.
“Words can’t explain how we feel about Dawn. She did such a selfless thing.
“We can never repay her but we know when she looks at Bobby and sees him doing all the things he never could
before ... you can see their bond is very special.”
Dawn, who lives just a few minutes from Kerrie-Anne and Noel’s home in Glenealy, Co Wicklow, said when she saw Bobby for the first time after the transplant she “felt an immediate connection”.
“It was really weird knowing that a piece of me was in him and keeping him alive, it was very emotional.”
Bobby has two older brothers, Leon (8) and Alexander (6), and Kerrie-Anne said she wants to give hope to other families with a sick child. “It is very tough and it can be a long road to get them better, especially when you have other kids. Don’t give up and stay strong.”