In August last year, Derry boy, Adam Cassidy, received a liver transplant which changed his life forever.
Exactly one year to the day on which the 12-years-old received this life saving gift, he will be competing in the Transplant Games.
The St. Patrick’s and St. Brigid’s College pupil and his family will travel to Birmingham later this week for the games which celebrates the effects of transplantation and raises awareness of organ donation.
Adam was diagnosed with a liver disease when he was just six weeks old and his family knew that a liver transplant would be necessary at some stage during his early life.
His mum Deirdre told the ‘Journal’ it was a massive shock when he was diagnosed with the rare genetic disease Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency.
“Adam was a wee bit jaundiced after he was born. A few weeks later the health visitor picked up that something wasn’t quite right and sent him to hospital for bloods and they diagnosed liver disease, although they couldn’t specifiy the type of liver disease.
“I knew in my heart that something was wrong with him. The medical staff in the hospital advised me to have him Baptised and the following day we flew to Birmingham for a biopsy to see if they could diagnose what was actually wrong.”
Moments before the biopsy took place, Altnagelvin Hospital rang to confirm they had a diagnosis.
Birmingham provided the family with medication and advice, including the heartbreaking news that the condition was incurable and Adam would require a liver transplant.
Adam was checked regularly in hospitals in Birmingham, Belfast and Altnagelvin and seemed to spend most of his life getting bloods taken depending on how his body was coping.
Throughout the first year of his life, Adam was a sickly child, but then he turned a corner.
“He was able to cope on the medication, although he had a low immune system, low muscle tone, fatigue and poor concentration. He lost most of his childhood and was always on the inside looking out because he just didn’t have the energy to go out,” Deirdre maintained.
As a result Adam had no real interest in sport until he was six-years-old and he got involved with swimming through the City of Derry Swim Club.
“He couldn’t do contact sports because he had an enlarged spleen, so swimming was about the only thing he could do and he enjoyed it, he loved being in the water.”
Adam’s health took a turn for the worst when he contracted Glandular Fever in March last year and he spent over two months in hospital.
Eventually he had to be transferred to a Birmingham Hospital because his liver was unable to recover from the infection.
“There were pre-cancerous nodules around the liver and the doctors advised us he would need a transplant within a year.
“It was devastating for us to be told this. It was enough to deal with the liver disease but to be told there was a risk of cancer, scared us even more.”
Adam was placed on the transplant list and was scanned every six weeks to ensure the nodules hadn’t grown further.
Meanwhile, the family was asked about the possibility of becoming living donors and mum, Deirdre, turned out to be a match.
“I had to go through a pile of tests to make sure I was fit enough for the procedure and for the first time it felt like I could really understand what Adam goes through. I was told we would get a phone call when the surgery was scheduled.
“The following day the phone rang and my first thought was that it was really quick.
“It was the transplant co-ordinator to tell me they had a liver for Adam. I started to ball my eyes out, I was just so happy.”
The air ambulance picked Adam and his family up at City of Derry Airport and he was in theatre for the nine hours transplant later that day.
“Adam was in ICU for a couple of days and when he woke up he was like a completely different wee boy. We had never seen his eyes so white.”
Adam made a quick recovery and was home within a couple of weeks.
“His life completely changed and he is a totally different wee boy. He is so happy and confident, you can’t stop him. Adam is just living life and enjoying everyday.
“Adam never had any energy before the transplant, but he knew no different and thought everybody felt like that. Now he wants to do so much. I really never thought I would see him like this.”
Adam is not cured of the liver disease and rejection remains a big risk. He was taking 32 tablets a day after the operation and that has now been reduced to nine.
Adam has made such an amazing recovery that his consultant nominated him for the Transplant Games.
Adam and his family will fly to Birmingham on Thursday, exactly one year to the day of the transplant, and Adam will compete in a number of swimming events.
Deirdre said he was really excited about taking part and would love to win a medal.
The Cassidy family now realise the importance of organ donation.
Deirdre added: “Please donate. Never underestimate how much organ donation can change one person’s life, one family’s life.”