that's life (Australia)

SUPERPOWER­S

Kimberly’s boy is the youngest person in the country to survive this rare op

- As told to Kathryn Lewsey

Getting my kids, Ella, then ve, and Brayden, three, out of bed, I took them into the kitchen.

‘Let’s get brekkie sorted,’ I grinned.

It was Saturday morning and I was looking forward to the weekend with them.

‘Good morning, Mummy,’ Brayden smiled.

But when I looked closer at my boy, I noticed he had a strange, slight yellow tint to his skin.

I phoned my husband, Anthony, who was in

Sydney for the weekend.

‘I’m taking him to the doctor,’ I said.

At the surgery, Brayden seemed his usual self, but he didn’t look right.

‘We’ll get him to do a urine test,’ the doctor said.

By Sunday, Brayden was worse.

‘My tummy hurts, Mummy,’ he complained.

It did look a little swollen, so I put a heat pack on it when he went to bed.

But the next morning, there was yellow in his eyes and he was so tired – miles away from his bubbly self.

After dropping Ella at school, I rushed Brayden to Emergency where they took his bloods.

‘His liver and bilirubin levels are high,’ the doctor said. ‘We’re going to keep him overnight and run more tests tomorrow.’

Calling Anthony, we agreed he’d stay at home with Ella and I’d sleep at the hospital with Brayden. The next day, there was more news.

‘We think Brayden has caught an unknown virus,’ the doctor said.

They believed it was attacking his liver, causing it to become in amed.

The next few days were a whirl of emotions as my boy had more tests, grew more lethargic and his skin turned even more yellow.

‘It hurts,’ he’d cry, clutching his tummy.

When a biopsy result came back inconclusi­ve, we were told Brayden was going to be transferre­d to Westmead Children’s Hospital, 160km away.

There, we found out Brayden’s liver was only functionin­g at 40 per cent.

The team con rmed that

Brayden had acute liver failure, the rapid and severe onset of liver failure in a person who has no preexistin­g liver disease.

It was likely caused by the virus, but doctors couldn’t be sure. It was a mystery.

‘The only way Brayden is going to survive this is if he gets a liver transplant,’ we were told. ‘We’re putting him on the donor list.’

Brayden would need a rare procedure called an Auxiliary Partial Orthotopic Liver Transplant­ation (APOLT), also known as a split liver transplant.

They wanted to give his liver a chance to repair itself, so would remove the left part of the organ before grafting together the remainder with the donor liver. This would allow the ‘native’ liver to recover, while the donor part functioned as a usual liver would.

I immediatel­y had blood tests to check if I could donate mine.

Amazingly, I was a match. But that night, as I rubbed Brayden’s tummy, we got incredible news – a donor liver had become available!

By 9am the following day, Brayden was in surgery.

Doctors had warned us the procedure had been performed on only three people in Australia, and just

He grew more lethargic and his skin turned

more yellow

one had been successful. Plus, Brayden would be the youngest in the country to have it.

After an excruciati­ng 10 hours, though, a nurse told us the transplant had been successful and both livers were okay.

‘How was his liver when you saw it?’ Anthony asked the doctor.

‘Terrible; the transplant was the right option,’ he con rmed.

Afterwards, we found out Brayden also had aplastic anaemia – bone marrow failure – likely to have been caused by the same virus, and he needed a bone marrow transplant.

After 11 weeks, we got to take our boy home for rest until the op. It was amazing to have him back, but everything was so different.

We were constantly monitoring Brayden and taking him to hospital for blood top-ups.

To help him understand, we explained about his two livers and I said, ‘You’ve got superpower­s!’

‘Yay!’ he beamed.

Then, in November

2019, three months after he got the donor liver, we spoke to a doctor who recommende­d the drug Atgam – an alternativ­e to the bone marrow transplant.

It involved Brayden receiving ve doses, which would rebuild his bone marrow.

Incredibly, it worked! And the good news kept coming. His liver had not only grown back and recovered, but was performing even better than the donated organ, which was still in prime condition.

‘I recommend removing the donor one,’ the doc said.

When I told Brayden, he said, ‘Does that mean I’ll lose my superpower­s?’

‘No darl’, you’ll have those powers for life,’ I promised.

In June 2020, our brave Brayden had the donor liver removed.

Now, his bloods are back to normal and his liver counts are perfect.

He’s ve, full of life and proudly calls his scar a shark bite.

I’ll be forever grateful for the hardworkin­g medics who saved Brayden – and to the family of the liver donor, I can’t thank you enough.

I’m so proud of Brayden. He’s so young, but he’s overcome so much. That’s why, in my eyes, he’ll always be a superhero. ●

He proudly calls his scar a shark bite

 ??  ?? Brayden’s skin turned yellow
After surgery
Brayden’s skin turned yellow After surgery
 ??  ?? Brayden, me, Anthony and Ella
Holding my boy after surgery
Brayden showing his ‘shark bite’ scar
Brayden, me, Anthony and Ella Holding my boy after surgery Brayden showing his ‘shark bite’ scar

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