LUCIE VAN DEN BERG HERALD SUN MARCH 09, 2014 10:00PM
FROM the very beginning of his life, Talon McGowan was close to seeing the end of it.
The little boy’s organs were failing; he could not eat and could barely walk.
But after almost six years, Talon was given a lifeline, by becoming the youngest person in Australia to receive an intestinal transplant at the Royal Children’s Hospital.
The complex operation, performed in partnership with the Austin Hospital, has only been carried out twice before in this country.
Talon received a new liver, intestine, pancreas and duodenum.
Talon before he had the transplant.
The little boy, with his bundle of soft curls and sweet disposition, is now enjoying parts of life considered unremarkable by most.
Like being able to eat.
His mother, Kelly-Anne McRae, said last week food passed the five-year-old’s lips for the first time.
Avocado and potato marked his first foray.
Talon had relied on intravenous feeding for sustenance.
RCH head of liver and intestinal transplantation Associate Professor Winita Hardikar said Talon was born with gastroschisis, a rare defect where the baby’s intestines were on the outside of the body.
“Normally, they can push it back in and sew it back up again,” she said.
But Talon’s intestines had lost blood supply and died, leaving him with just 30cm of intestines instead of several metres.
From that day on, he survived on IV nutrition. Soon, even that was not was enough.
“In the past year, he became so sick that his liver and intestines were failing,” Ms McRae said. His eyes shone yellow. His stomach blew up until he looked heavily pregnant and struggled to walk.
Not long after the family relocated from Brisbane to Victoria to wait for a suitable donor, the organs became available.
It has not been long since the transplant, but already the family is seeing a change in the once tired and unhappy boy.
“He’s happy and he wants to engage with everyone and he has a lot more energy,” she said. “The transplant opens up a whole new world for him and us as a family.”
Soon Talon’s central line will be removed, stopping the threat of infections and allowing him to swim and bathe.
Ms McRae said they were thankful to the medical team and their thoughts remain with the organ donor’s family.
“Our joy is absolutely nothing in comparison to the grief they must feel, so I hope they can find some peace in knowing we will do our absolute best to ensure Talon continues to do well.”
Last week Talon was strong enough to return home to begin his second chance at life.