A LITTLE boy celebrated his third birthday yesterday with the best gift of all: life, courtesy of a new liver.
Conor Doyle, who underwent a liver transplant last Sunday week in a UK hospital, had been diagnosed with a rare, degenerative disorder called biliary artresia when he was just three months' old. The life-threatening condition, which affects just one in every 10,000 people, can lead to damage and cirrhosis of the liver.
At the time of his diagnosis, Conor, from Bray, Co Wicklow, only had 10pc liver function until a procedure was performed at Crumlin Children's Hospital in Dublin. He has been on a transplant list since and had been deteriorating in recent months.
He was at home with his parents, Susan and Liam, on the Sunday when a call came through at 7pm that a donor had become available in the UK.
His parents quickly got him on board an Air Corps air ambulance at Baldonnell, in Dublin, bound for a Royal Air Force base at London Northolt.
From there, Conor was transferred to the specialist King's College Hospital in London, where surgeons performed the life-saving operation.
"Conor's operation was due to take eight hours but it was concluded in six and doctors are delighted with his progress," his aunt, Ann Kenny, told the Irish Independent.
"He was sitting up and asking if he could go home the following day. It was hard for the first couple of days as he was fasting, so you can imagine trying to explain to a three-year-old that he couldn't have his bottle. But he is much better now. He is on a raft of anti-rejection medication but we are praying he will continue to improve."
Conor's parents are with him in London while his older siblings Jamie (14) and Emma (5) have remained in Ireland.
Last week's telephone call was the second time the Doyles heard a donor had become available. The first had come on December 10 last year, during one of the worst Irish winters on record. "The Air Corps helicopter could not take off because the snow was so thick, so the government jet was commissioned some time later and we got Conor over to the UK, but sadly that liver was not deemed viable," said Ms Kenny.
Conor's mother has given up her job as an administrator to care for her son. A fundraising drive raised more than €25,000 for the youngster, who will spend at least three weeks in the London hospital.
"We want to thank everyone for all their support during the fundraising drive and since his operation," said Ms Kenny.