A four-year-old girl from Lisburn who underwent a life-saving liver transplant operation when she was a baby is looking forward to taking part in the British Transplant Games next week.
Lucyellen Johnston, who needed the transplant at just seven months old after being diagnosed with the rare liver disease biliary atresia, will compete in a number of children’s events at the Westfield Health British Transplant Games, which will take place from August 2 - 5 in Birmingham.
She will take part in ball throwing, track 25m, long jump, the obstacle race, bean bag archery and the 3k Donor Run.
Lucyellen, who is due to start P1 at St Joseph’s Primary School in Lisburn this September, says she is “excited about going and doing the games.”
“I’m going to see my friends and run fast so I can win,” she said.
In July 2014, her dad, Edward Smith acted as a live donor, giving part of his liver to his baby daughter.
Both operations were performed at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, where Lucyellen spent a total of 17 weeks.
“He (Edward) recovered straight away,” Lucyellen’s mum, Marianne Johnston explained. “He was back to work within about four weeks.
“Lucy had it tough for the first wee while, in and out of hospital for the first 18 months, but for the last 18 months she has done brilliant.”
Lucyellen is still on anti-rejection drugs and requires constant monitoring, but her mum says she’s making great progress.
“We are so lucky to have Lucyellen in our lives as she was so poorly as a baby. Without her liver transplant we would not have been able to see our little girl live and grow into such an inspirational person, who really enjoys every second of life,” Marianne said.
“Obviously she has a life-long condition, but she’s doing great now. Looking at her you wouldn’t think there was a thing wrong with her.”
This year’s Games – being held in Birmingham for the first time in almost two decades – is expected to be the largest ever, with more than 1,000 transplant athletes and over 2,000 supporters registered to take part.
Lucyellen will be cheered on at the four-day event by her proud mum Marianne, her brothers Ryan, 14, and Dylan, 6, and their uncle Matt.
“She has been invited every year but she’s never been well enough to attend, but we are taking the chance this year given the fact that it’s in Birmingham,” Marianne continued.
“I can’t wait to see her compete. And I am looking forward to meeting all the other children who I would have met on the ward when Lucyellen was there.”
The family will be among thousands of people taking part in the Transplant Games’ 1980s-themed 3k Donor Run, which will raise awareness about the importance of organ donation and celebrate the life-changing effects of transplantation.
Ahead of her trip, Lucyellen has been raising money for the British Transplant Games and the Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity.
Anyone who would like to support her efforts can make a donation online at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/marianne-johnston3