THE smile of a newborn baby can often melt the heart of all manner of people.
But for the parents of Elsie-Mae Thompson, every single time the 14-month-old, from Horninglow, grins from ear to ear they believe they are staring at their own little miracle.
The Mail exclusively revealed the story of the youngster during National Transplant Week in a bid to get more people to sign the organ donor register, and now Elsie-Mae’s mum and dad have opened up the family album to share photos of the youngster’s recovery and spoken about their struggles as their little girl fought for her life.
As soon as Elsie-Mae was born, she was diagnosed with a life-threatening condition and needed an operation immediately.
It was during the operation that doctors found she had a serious liver condition called biliary atresia, which was causing her bile ducts to become blocked, meaning she would need another lifesaving procedure.
At only a few weeks old, after having a bypass operation, baby Elsie-Mae was fighting for her life and the family faced a six-month wait to find out whether or not the operation had been a success.
Unfortunately, at Christmas time last year the family were told the operation had been unsuccessful and that Elsie-Mae would need a transplant urgently.
Mum Rhiannon, 23, said: “We were told that Elsie-Mae would need a liver transplant urgently, by August at the latest, and it was a matter of life or death.
“Before Elsie-Mae could go on the transplant list she needed to have all her vaccinations completed, so it was March by the time she was added to the transplant list and I felt that the clock was ticking.
“There was no guarantee there would be a donor for Elsie-Mae so all the family were tested and fortunately I was a match.
“I was a stone underweight so the surgeon refused to operate on me until I put weight on.
“I’m not sure if it was the stress of the situation but I ended up losing half a stone and being a stone-and-a-half underweight.
“I also needed lots of health checks which took up to three months to clear, and all the time Elsie-Mae was getting weaker.
“Six weeks after Elsie-Mae had registered on the transplant list I was in hospital with her when one of the nurses approached me and told me they had a donor.
“It felt so surreal – I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming.”
Six weeks after the transplant, it has emerged that the donation was a split liver donation given by a 19-year-old man to Elsie-Mae and a woman.
Miss Thompson added: “I’m so grateful to the person who was able to save Elsie-Mae’s life by choosing to be an organ donor.
“Before the transplant Elsie-Mae was very tired and would take naps all the time.
“She wasn’t developing at the rate that she should have been and she was very clingy to me and her daddy. I didn’t realise until now that she was like that because she was poorly and unwell.
“Since the operation she is always smiling and laughing and is much happier and confident – it’s wonderful to see.
“Myself and the family are so relieved to know that Elsie-Mae will be okay and live a healthy and happy life.
“I’m so eternally grateful to the person who saved Elsie-Mae’s life and I am hoping to meet up with the family soon to thank them in person.”
More information about becoming an organ donor is available by visiting organdonation.nhs.uk