Unlike most children Elizabeth Murphy gets to celebrate two birthdays every year. The first, her actual birthday in April is to commemorate her being given life. The second, in September, is to celebrate when her life actually began.
For her first five months in the world, Elizabeth, now aged five, lived for the most part in Our Lady’s Children Hospital in Crumlin, having been born with Bilary Atresia. Her health had deteriorated so rapidly since birth that doctors told her parents, Suzie and John, that they had no option but to go down the organ transplant route. They had previously been told that transplantation wouldn’t be considered until Elizabeth was at least one year old.
Elizabeth was prioritised at the top of the transplant list and after a three and a half week wait, the then four and a half month old underwent a liver transplant in the UK.
Suzie and John explain that Elizabeth was sickly since the beginning, but they admit that they had no idea just what lay ahead for their first born child. For the first eight weeks, the local doctors thought Elizabeth had breast feeding jaundice because she was so yellow. By the eight week her tummy had become so distended that Elizabeth was taken to Temple Street for blood tests and then from there to Crumlin where the paediatric liver unit is. Within twenty four hours Suzie and John knew that there was their daughter was extremely ill and the so called breast feeding jaundice was in fact a rare liver disease.
Having had a failed Kasai operation it was obvious that the only option left was transplant. Before travelling to Kings College Hospital for assessment Elizabeth was christened in hospital and family support was paramount. On being asked the question how they coped the Murphy’s admit that they were lucky that they had a relatively short wait for and organ to become available. But, as any parent will attest even a minute of waiting as your child’s life hangs in the balance is agonising.
Less than four weeks on the transplant list the Murphy’s got the call, at 5am, that a possible match had been found. Elizabeth was in London by 11am and went down for the transplant at 4pm. She received one-third of an adult liver and the remainder was used on an adult patient. Elizabeth’s surgery took more than eight hours. Afterwards her surgeon told Suzie and John that it had been ‘very challenging’ and that she was in a very precarious situation. The new liver hadn’t started working and she had also developed chronic pneumonia. The next twenty four hours were crucial. Elizabeth was on life support for eight days. They paralysed her at one stage just to keep her still and let the life support do its job. Other transplant patients were leaving PICU within twenty four hours of transplantation. That was an incredibly difficult time but everyone remained positive. Elizabeth was described as a feisty young lady who would recover in her own time. Sure enough she did.
A month later Elizabeth was back at home in Dublin. Suzie and John’s outlook is one of positivity. The reason she was given a liver transplant was to lead a normal life. Elizabeth celebrates her transplant date like it’s a second birthday and the donor family are especially remembered on this day. They gave Elizabeth a life which she and her parents endeavour to enjoy and live to the full.