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Our unique bond

Zoe shares her son Jordan’s story and tells of the unique bond she shares with the mother whose child saved his life.

I had no idea that my son had a liver condition. Jordan was a healthy, energetic eight year-old who had barely ever been ill when he was rushed to Birmingham Children’s Hospital with chest pains.  After about a week of tests, ruling out the more common problems, we were told he had liver failure. It was the most awful shock. Doctors explained that he had Wilsons disease, a rare genetic condition and that a liver transplant was his only hope. Jordan was placed on the emergency transplant list and a match was found just 24 hours later.

Jordan’s transplant was a success. We were overwhelmed with relief, but knowing that his donor was another child, I couldn’t imagine the pain this family were going through. Although saying ‘thank you’ will never seem enough, I wanted this family to know that their selfless gesture had given my son his life back, so I wrote to them immediately via the transplant co-ordinator. The letter was passed on and I was delighted to receive a reply from Fiona, mum of Ryan, an 11 year-old boy, who had died suddenly of a brain aneurysm.

It was to be the start of a wonderful friendship. Fiona and I started to exchange letters about once a month. I kept her updated on Jordan’s progress, and she would tell me about Ryan. We learned of lots of similarities between the two boys and Fiona told me it brought her comfort to know that Jordan was doing well. A year after we started writing, we spoke on the phone and four years after Jordan’s transplant, our two families met for the first time. It was amazing to finally meet and wonderful to see Jordan getting on so well with Ryan’s two sisters.

I first heard about CLDF in those first few weeks in hospital but to be honest, there was just too much going on for me to engage. It was a bit later, after Jordan’s transplant, that I spoke to members of the support team who explained how they could give information and practical advice. As Jordan improved and we began to pick up our lives again, we started fundraising for CLDF and for Birmingham Children’s Hospital – it was just very close to our hearts.

Jordan had always been bright and enquiring and we were keen that the trauma he went through didn’t change that. I remember attending a 6th form Open Evening where he enquired about studying Medicine.  They said he would need all A grades and A*’s (and a lot of them!).  He said “How on earth am I going to do that?”  We said “Well you can do anything you put your mind to” – and he did!

Jordan showed early interest in studying medicine!

Just over ten years after his transplant, Jordan started at University of Liverpool Medical School. Obviously, Medicine is an extremely tough degree and he has certainly put the hours in.  It is a five-year course, but he decided to do an extra year and do a Masters (Philosophy in Child Health).  He has also done a lot of teaching and training of the Years 1 and 2 and received Commendations of Excellence.  He has worked on ICU, treating Covid patients, as well as A&E and many ward shifts where there has been a lot of pressure.  Touch wood, he has remained in excellent health and will continue to do so.  He loves Liverpool and is delighted to have secured a job there. He has moved into a new apartment with his cat and trusted revision buddy, Eon.

Jordan with Zoe and Eon

I’m sure that Jordan’s own experiences in hospital have influenced his desire to be a paediatrician. He seems to have a superb bedside manner anyway, probably because he can remember what it is like to be a poorly child in the bed. I remember one instance where a little boy was terrified before his operation and Jordan held his hand on the trolley down to theatre and when he came around, he was asking for “Dr Jordan.”  Half the battle is having a good selection of stickers in your pocket, so I am told!

Now 26, Jordan is a junior doctor, working at Whiston hospital in Liverpool. He’s just completed a four month stint in A& E which was very very busy. He still wants to be a paediatrician and he was “given ” all the paediatric patients in A&E.  He has had fantastic feedback and continues to do teaching and presentations in addition to his very demanding day job.

I know we have been lucky. Ryan’s liver seemed to attach to Jordan’s very well and I remember Dr McKiernan saying they have joined in a unique way.  I have Ryan’s rugby shirt, we have photos of Ryan around the home and on the second Sunday in December every year, we light a candle outside for all the children in heaven. Fiona will always be my amazing angel and we are in touch regularly.

Fiona (left) and Zoe

I hope Jordan’s story can give hope to someone else.  I remember during the very worrying, tough times someone saying to me “oh I know someone who had a liver transplant 20 years ago and they’re doing great.”  That helped me such a lot to remain positive.

I couldn’t be more proud of Jordan – for his values, ethics, hard work and determination.  I will never forget those testing, worrying times but remain grateful to every single person who supported him and us – doctors, nurses, CLDF, restaurant staff making his special sausage and chips and the absolutely fabulous play specialists at Birmingham Children’s Hospital who made each day bearable.

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