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Best Friends Donate Part of Their Livers to Their Babies

Tara Sturman and Andrea Cobbold have been best friends since school days.  They were pregnant at the same time and gave birth just weeks apart.  Not long after becoming new mums, they found out that both their children had the same rare liver condition called biliary atresia within weeks of each other. Biliary atresia is a blockage in the tubes (ducts) that carry liquid bile from the liver to the gallbladder. The condition is congenital, which means it is present from birth.

Mothers Tara and Andrea live in neighbouring villages in Suffolk and supported each other when they were told their babies would need kidney transplants.

The childhood friends did not hesitate in offering their own kidneys to save the life of their children.

Andrea Cobbold said: "When it comes to it all mums would give anything to save their child but there was a chance I could die on the operating theatre so, with an elder daughter, Frances, three; I had a lot to consider.

"It's a staggering coincidence that Tara had to go through the same ordeal. It's an emotional time. Having a close friend who knows exactly what you're going through is an enormous help."

Andrea was the first to be operated in October 2007 with 30 per cent of her liver taken out and given to her 10 month old baby son Alex.  She said "There is still a small chance of rejection, but if this doesn't happen Alex's new liver should last him well into old age.

"My liver was a bit big for him so he still has an open chest - which means his abdomen is covered by clear film. Within a few months it can be closed up.

"I'm confident Alex, 13 months, would have died without my liver - the lack of donors means the waiting list is too long and Alex didn't have time."

Baby India received part of her mum’s liver a couple of weeks later and both babies were allowed home in January.

The transplant took place at the King’s College Hospital in London where Mr Mohamed Rela, consultant liver surgeon at King's College Hospital carried out the operations on both Andrea and Alex

Biliary Atresia

The condition is extremely rare and there have only been 55 mothers-to-child liver donations carried out in the UK

Biliary atresia affects approximately 50 babes in England and Wales each year.  Because the child is born without bile ducts outside the liver, bile enters the bloodstream and poisons the liver causing cirrhosis.

Babies born with this condition can appear normal at birth but by the second or third week a jaundice colour develops.  

Other symptoms may include:

  • Dark urine
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Floating stools
  • Foul-smelling stools
  • Pale or clay-colored stools
  • Slow or no weight gain
  • Slow growth
A mothers’ love knows no boundaries.  To give your child part of your body is without question something every mother would do in a heartbeat and without hesitation.