WHEN her baby daughter was born Joanna Bycroft was denied the simple pleasure afforded to most new mums; seeing the colour of her newborn’s eyes for the first time.
Daughter Farah was born with a deadly liver condition, which turned her skin and the whites of her eyes yellow.
The little girl, from Moldgreen, desperately needed a liver transplant and her mum prayed that a donor would come forward in time to save her life.
But now – 10 months later – Joanna can finally look into her daughter’s hazel eyes, and it’s all thanks to her own mum, Carol Morris.
Carol, 57, was desperate to give her grand-daughter a fighting chance, so volunteered to give her part of her liver.
The operations, which lasted a total of 15 hours for grandma and grand-daughter, were a success and the family are now back home.
Joanna, 36, said: “It’s amazing what my mum’s done and I will never be able to thank her enough. Because of her Farah now has the chance to live a normal and happy life.”
The tot was born with the life-threatening condition in April. She suffered jaundice, but when her condition failed to improve she was transferred to the children’s unit at St James’s Hospital in Leeds.
Farah was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a condition where the bile duct from the liver to the gall bladder is blocked.
An operation to correct it was unsuccessful and medics told Joanna that Farah needed a transplant to survive.
Farah’s name was put on the children’s liver transplant list and her anxious mum waited months to get the phone call to say that a suitable match was available.
Meanwhile, family members were tested to see if they could provide a match. Carol, of Rotherham, volunteered and after tests the operations went ahead at the hospital.
There were a few setbacks. The operations were delayed a week because of other emergencies and after the first operation an ultra-sound showed that one of the arteries attaching the piece of liver to Farah’s had kinked, so she had to go back into theatre.
The second operation was successful and Joanna couldn’t believe how quickly she saw an improvement in her baby’s condition.
She said: “The day after the operation she was transferred to the children’s liver ward and she improved 100%.
“She was sat up in bed playing, her jaundice had cleared up and she was just like any other baby.’’
Amazingly, just days before the operation Joanna did get the phone call she had been waiting for when a suitable donor came forward.
Joanna said: “There was a phone call from another ward to say that a deceased donor had become available. We were given the choice of using his liver or my mum’s, but she decided she wanted to go ahead with it.
“We later found out that the liver couldn’t have been split into a piece small enough for Farah, but it went to an adult.
“Farah was only the second child at Leeds to have a live donor. I am still as passionate as ever that people should register as donors. There is a real shortage and I know people with children on the list who are still praying for that phone call.”
Farah was in hospital three-and-a-half weeks while her grandmother left after five days.
Farah is now back at her home in Senior Street and her overjoyed mum said she is now looking forward to getting their lives back on track.
Joanna added: “She’s a different little girl. Before, she was lethargic and would lose interest in things. Now she’s full of beans and there’s no stopping her.
“She’s a bit behind with movement, which is down to the disease, so the next thing is to get that back on track through physiotherapy. She’s still feeding with a nasal gastric tube, but I’ll be trying her with solids soon.”
Because of her condition Farah will have a weakened immune system for the rest of her life.
She has to be careful to stay away from people with illnesses and avoid certain foods. She also has to have regular tests as there is always a risk her body could reject her liver.
But it’s a small price to pay for the chance to led a full and happy life.
Joanna said: “I am so thankful to everyone at Leeds, the Sick Children’s Trust and the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation.
“But most of all, I have to thank my mum. I will have to think of something really special to do for her on Mother’s Day!”
Carol said the operation went well and is recommending that more people sign up to help sick children like Farah.
She added: “I was delighted I could do this for Farah. I wanted to give her the chance to live a normal life and she’s making wonderful progress. I’m looking forward to watching her grow up.”