Liver transplant patient starts school

NATASHA THYNE
Last updated 05:00 28/05/2014
Alice Johnston
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/ Fairfax NZ

DREAM COME TRUE: One of New Zealand’s youngest liver transplant patients, Alice Johnston, is fit, healthy and starting school, four and a half years after her operation.

Alice Johnston
TOUGH START: Baby Alice Johnston with her mum Kate Manson and dad Mike Johnston back in 2009, at the time of her liver transplant operation.

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Fit, healthy and starting school. Alice Johnston, 5, has come a long way from her tough start in life as one of New Zealand's youngest liver transplant patients.

Her first day at Winchester Rural School this week was a dream becoming a reality for her mum, Kate Manson.

"When she was fighting for her life I remember praying for her to survive her first year of life. Now I have much bigger hopes and dreams for her."

She and Alice's dad, Mike Johnston, who was the liver donor, are so proud of how resilient and independent Alice is now.

So much so she wanted to catch the bus to school on her first day.

"I had to drive myself to school and meet her there," Kate said.

Medically, Alice's liver is doing "exactly what it should" and her regular blood results are coming back saying "she's perfect".

Alice takes anti-rejection medication twice a day, and sees the gastroenterology doctor and liver nurse specialist from Starship hospital twice a year.

She also sees her paediatrician at Timaru Hospital twice a year and has blood tests every six weeks. Her five-year post-transplant biopsy is scheduled for later this year.

Most of Alice's school peers know about what she went through as they went to preschool together.

Although she doesn't really have to be any more careful than other kids, the biggest concern is if she contracts a viral infection, because her immune system is suppressed.

According to her mother, the school has been very accommodating.

"They printed a letter from the Starship liver nurse specialist in their newsletter, informing all parents and caregivers at the school about Alice and her needs. So we feel very comfortable that Alice will be fine and well looked after at school."

Through the ordeal, the family has learnt to take life one day at a time, as they are still in contact with other "liver" families, some of whom are still experiencing setbacks and complications.

They also know first hand the benefits of organ donation.

"Talk to your family about what your wishes are after you have passed, as you can potentially save the lives of many defenceless people who are fighting to stay alive," Kate said.

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- The Timaru Herald

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