Teenager celebrates gift of life

THERE S a special occasion for one teenager this week. It s not birthday celebrations or a Valentine s surprise but a much more momentous day. Saturday is the fifth anniversary of the liver transplant that saved her life. Fourteen-year-old Audrey Carolan,

THERE'S a special occasion for one teenager this week. It's not birthday celebrations or a Valentine's surprise but a much more momentous day.

Saturday is the fifth anniversary of the liver transplant that saved her life.

Fourteen-year-old Audrey Carolan, who attends Barnwell School in Stevenage, has come a long way since the transplant. She will always have to take medication to prevent liver rejection but wants to encourage others to sign up to saving lives.

Audrey, who lives in the Shephall area of Stevenage with her parents Veronica and Eddie, said: "Not many people realise that children can be affected by liver disease so we hope my story will help to raise awareness and will also encourage people to join the organ donor register.

"We will be thinking of the family who gave me such a wonderful gift five years ago and this milestone is very special for me and the whole family. The transplant not only saved my life but has made it possible for me to live life to the full."

Shortly after her birth, Audrey was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a life threatening and incurable liver disease in which the bile ducts become progressively blocked leading to irreversible liver damage.

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A corrective operation called a kasai was unsuccessful and donors were scarce so when Audrey's liver began to deteriorate, her mother Veronica donated part of her liver in a "live related transplant" when Audrey was 14 months old.

But by 2002 the graft was failing and Audrey required a second donation. After being put on the list a donor became available in five days and the life saving operation went ahead on February 17, 2002.

Veronica said: "The Children's Liver Disease Foundation (CLDF) has been a lifeline since Audrey was diagnosed by providing information and support. It is so reassuring to know there is an organisation there to help, who understands what you are going through and is also dedicated to funding research which gives hope for the future."

Catherine Arkley, chief executive of CLDF, added: "It is great to hear how well Audrey is doing five years on from her transplant and we are very grateful to the family for using this special milestone to champion our work.

"Few people realise that there are over 100 different liver diseases and more children are diagnosed with a liver disease than childhood leukaemia, so thousands of families are affected.

"We desperately need to raise more funds to continue and enhance our family support, education and research programmes.

"But there is another very important message here. Without the very generous gift from another family Audrey would not be here today. We are all enormously grateful for this unselfish act and urge people to not only support CLDF's work but also join the organ donor register (www.uktransplant.org).

"The simple fact is that you are more likely to be an organ recipient than an organ donor. If you're prepared to accept a donor organ then you should be prepared to be an organ donor.

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