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'Miracle baby' Ava celebrates her first birthday; Milestone for baby who has survived two liver transplants.

Byline: Madeleine Brindley

SMILING and laughing as she celebrates her first birthday, this is the moment Ava's parents prayed they would see.

After spending almost her entire life on a hospital ward, Ava, who underwent two life-saving liver transplants, is finally at home with parents Laura Thomas and Nathan Raffour.

The one year old's family gathered around her yesterday to celebrate her birthday and long-awaited home-coming.

Laura, 22, said: "It's amazing - we feel like we're just starting again.

"The last year was awful, but we're here now and we can move on with the rest of our lives.

"I appreciate the time I have with her so much, even going for a walk in the park is an amazing experience."

Ava is still being fed by tube overnight and must make weekly trips to the University Hospital of Wales, in Cardiff, and Birmingham Children's Hospital for check-ups.

But since being discharged home to Cardiff from Birmingham, Laura said she has come on "leaps and bounds".

"When I take her to UHW and see the support staff, they can't believe what she's been through and how well she is now," Laura said.

"Apart from the tube in her nose, she looks just like any other normal and healthy one year old."

Ava's miraculous fight for life began just hours after she was born when she stopped breathing because of congen-itaproblems in her heart.

She had to have her heart valves re-opened when she was four days old. And just as she had recovered from the procedure her young parents were given the devastating news that she was suffering from a liver condition, which caused the vital organ to fail.

After a desperate three months Ava received a new liver at Birmingham Children's Hospital from a 24-year-old man who had died, on May 10.

But just a few hours later the transplant failed and Ava suffered a cardiac arrest - doctors told Nathan and Laura that Ava was not strong enough for a second transplant.

Nathan, 26, who works in the finance sector, said: "For everything that we have been through as a family, we knew that this was pretty serious but we had been through so many serious situations with Ava that we couldn't believe this was the end."

Ava survived for five days without a liver while she waited for the second transplant, which would give her a chance of life.

Laura, who lives in Cardiff, said: "Ava has never really had the opportunity to learn what things are because she's spent so much time in a hospital room. But now she loves animals and being outside and understands what's going on.

"We couldn't be happier."


Baby Ava Raffour celebrates her first birthday with her parents Laura and Nathan. Below, in Birmingham Children's Hospital PICTURE: Andrew Davies [umlaut]
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 10, 2009
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