FROM a toddler to her mid-teens, Lucy Augustus has had the skill of surgeons, doctors and nurses at Birmingham Children’s Hospital to thank for saving her life with a liver transplant - and caring for her since.
Now the 17-year-old is planning a summer of fundraising to provide the hospital’s liver unit with a special “goodbye” gift before she switches to the care of the adult team at the city’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).
She intends her efforts to be a special “thank you “ too, to the memory of the girl whose liver she received, and whose family made the decision to donate their daughter’s organs after she had died.
Without the transplant she underwent at just two years of age on St David’s Day 1999, Lucy’s prognosis was bleak.
Doctors predicted that without it the Cwmbran youngster had just months to live, having been born with biliary atresia, a condition found in just one-in-15,000 births, in which bile becomes trapped in the liver because bile ducts have not formed properly.
Lucy underwent major surgery to try to ease the condition when she was just weeks old, but after that failed, a transplant was always going to be the only way to save her life.
“I still remember it vividly - the phone call, the journey up to Birmingham, the waiting, seeing her afterwards. But she made an incredible recovery,” said mum Vicky, who with husband Paul had to get Lucy to Birmingham from Thornhill, Cwmbran, in three hours.
Despite nine-and-a-half hours of surgery, Lucy was home just two weeks later and apart from a rejection scare six years ago, which was tackled by a medication adjustment, she has thrived.
She has had to return to Birmingham Children’s Hospital for regular check-ups, which include blood pressure, weight and height, checks, and blood tests. But when she turns 18 in November, her care will switch to the adult team at QEH.
“It’s going to be strange because I’ve known the children’s hospital team all my life,” said Lucy, who attended Llantarnam comprehensive school, and plans to train as a beautician, but also intends to pursue her interest in photography. She is currently on a work placement at the Waterloo Inn, in Old Cwmbran, which is run by her parents.
“I’ve been to see the adult unit and it’s a bit overwhelming - the hospital is huge, like an airport - but I’ve decided I’d like to raise some money for the children’s unit first because they’ve been fantastic,” she said.
“I haven’t got a target, just as much as people are willing to donate, but it would be great to be able to put anything we raise towards a piece of equipment that other liver transplant patients can benefit from.”
A weekend of pub games and other entertainment at the Waterloo Inn over the Bank Holiday weekend has kicked off the fundraising, but other events are being planned, with a skydive set to round things off later in the year.
For Lucy’s parents. Organ donor card carriers since before Lucy’s transplant, the change of hospital and care team will be a wrench too, but is also an indication of how far their daughter has come.
“It’s been incredible to see her growing up, because the outlook was not good,” said Mrs Augustus.
“But we never forget that Lucy’s second chance came because someone lost their life, and because her parents took a decision in the most agonising circumstances, to donate her organs.
“Other lives were saved, and people helped, by that decision, and someone else benefited from a liver transplant too because they were able to split the organ as Lucy was so small.
“Afterwards, I wrote a letter to them, and when I read it back I cried and cried. I don’t know where it had all come from.
“They did an amazing thing, and we are forever grateful.”