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Why Jack’s first marathon is special

Every parent is proud to see their child run the London Marathon, but when Julie’s 26 year old son, Jack, takes part for the first time next Sunday, it will be a particularly special day as she explains….

Jack appeared to be very healthy when he was born and when he developed jaundice three days later, the midwife thought nothing of it. We knew it was common in newborn babies. After two weeks, however, he was still jaundiced so we were referred to our local hospital. Bloods were done which showed Jack’s liver enzymes were high but we were told it was breast milk jaundice and not to worry but we should return each week to do bloods just to keep an eye on the levels.

This went on for several weeks and, even though each week his liver enzymes were higher,  we were still reassured it was fine.

I think it was when I took him at week 10, that I saw a registrar who used to work at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. She examined Jack, looked at his previous blood results and was deeply concerned. She was also concerned that Jack had essentially been ignored. She arranged for us to see Dr Kelly at BCH the following morning.

Jack was admitted for five days to have tests which resulted in a diagnosis of biliary atresia. I’ll always remember  – it was the day before Christmas Eve 1995 and it was just horrendous for us as his parents.

It was a member of staff at BCH who told us about CLDF who we found very helpful. Alongside the medical team, staff from the charity helped educate us and support us through those difficult months when it became clear that Jack was going to need a liver transplant. We will never forget it.

Jack received his liver transplant when he was 10 months old. The five hour operation was performed by Mr Buckles and was a complete success. He had spent the three months prior to that at the Children’s Hospital as he was very poorly and weak and the transformation in him was remarkable. Two weeks after surgery he was back home, getting stronger every day and very shortly didn’t require his NG tube as he was eating so well.

As a youngster, Jack was fun loving and mischievous, and loved playing with his two brothers and younger sister. He also loved school and we were fortunate in that he had absolutely no health issues. In fact he was no different from any other child except his scar of which he seemed very proud. He was and still remains on a very low dose of anti- rejection medication which was increased only once about 12 years ago.

Jack left school at the age of 16 and started working in the construction industry. As well as having an active job, he loves cycling and running which is why he wanted to take on the London Marathon. It was my idea that he should do so to raise funds for CLDF. Jack obviously has no memory of those traumatic early months but we remember clearly how supportive the charity was during his early years.

It will be very special cheering him on, on Marathon day, knowing the tough start he had, and I really hope that his story gives hope to any parent who feels the way we did when they hear the words ‘biliary atresia.’

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