A Portadown couple is looking forward to a very special Christmas now that their youngest son, who was born with a rare liver disease, is home following a life-saving transplant.
Thomas Bell, who is nine months old and received the transplant in October, has spent almost half of his short life in hospital.
His dad David said: “Since he was born my wife and I have spent 10 weeks in Birmingham and six weeks in our local hospital.
“This has been stressful for us, but has had a major impact on our other children. They have missed their little brother and my wife and I have missed school plays and other important events.
“Thomas has been through physical pain but the other children have suffered mentally. To be all together at Christmas will be fantastic.”
Thomas was just eight days old when his GP referred him to hospital with a slight heart murmur.
“When the hospital did blood tests, they could see that there was a problem with his liver but he also had sepsis,” said David.
The next day, Thomas was transferred by air ambulance to Birmingham Children’s Hospital where tests confirmed he had biliary atresia, a rare and life-threatening liver disease.
Although Thomas was discharged in April, the next few months were tough on the whole family as Thomas’ condition did not improve and there were several trips both to Craigavon Hospital and to Belfast Children’s Hospital.
“Thomas’ final admission to Craigavon was in early September,” David added. “This time he had gone off his feed and they had to put in a feeding tube. He was in hospital for a week while my wife Sharon and I were trained on how to use the pump.”
On September 24, Thomas was admitted to Birmingham Children’s Hospital once more and his family was told that a liver transplant was his only option. Fortunately he did not have to wait long for a donor liver to become available and received his transplant on October 7.
His parents say the change is unbelievable. “Only a few weeks ago Thomas’ colour floated between yellow, green and brown and his eyes were completely yellow,” said David.
“He is now a normal colour and his eyes are white. He is a lot more awake and his personality is really coming out. He used to sleep nearly all the time. Now he plays with the other children, laughs and shouts.”
The family has been supported by the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation.