Watch: Baby in need of a liver transplant has his life saved by his mum's best friend
A baby in need of a liver transplant has had his life saved by his mum's best friend.
Shortly after Lauren Beckett, 25, gave birth to her son, Tommy, he was diagnosed with neonatal hemochromatosis – a rare disorder causing excess iron in the liver and other parts of the body.
Doctors warned Tommy would die without a liver transplant and an urgent appeal saw more than 200 people put themselves forward as potential donors, without success.
Thankfully, however, Beckett's best friend Kayleigh Taylor, 34, came to Tommy's rescue, offering to donate part of her liver after appearing to be a donor match.
The pair both underwent surgery on December 17, 2021, with Tommy spending eight hours in theatre at just six weeks old.
Nine months on, Tommy is recovering well, and Beckett and Taylor's friendship is stronger than ever.
"I'm so grateful to Kayleigh," says Beckett, a civil servant, who lives in Toddington, Bedfordshire, with partner, Callum Harknett, 22.
"I can't talk about it without getting emotional. Without Kayleigh, Tommy would have died.
"Before the transplant, they didn't even think he was going to be strong enough for the surgery. It was really scary.
"Now they're both absolutely fine and Tommy is doing so well."
After a normal pregnancy, 12 hours after he was born, on 31 October, 2021, doctors noticed Tommy was cold and suffering from jaundice and low blood sugar.
He was moved to the NICU ward of Luton and Dunstable Hospital before being transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital when he was just three days old.
Doctors suspected he could have a twisted bowel, but after a week he was moved to King's College Hospital as it became clear his liver was in trouble.
At two weeks old, Tommy was finally diagnosed with neonatal hemochromatosis.
Taylor has Gilbert's syndrome and initially feared that she wouldn't be a suitable donor, but put herself forward after a tearful call with her friend.
"I met Kayleigh through work about six years ago and we just clicked," Beckett explains.
"That night, I wasn't calling her to ask her to be a donor – I was just overwhelmed and scared and I needed somebody to cry to.
"After our phone call, she spent all night researching if she could be a donor despite having Gilbert's syndrome – which affects your liver – and then booked in for tests."
After undergoing blood tests, a CT scan and an MRI scan, it started to look like Taylor could be a match so she was put on standby for the transplant while they waited for the final results.
But Tommy started to decline and became in urgent need of a new liver, so doctors asked Taylor if she would be happy going forward with the transplant before the final results came back.
"We didn't even know if Tommy would be well enough to go for the surgery, but they managed to stabilise him and then they both went down to theatre," Beckett explains.
"I held Kayleigh's hand on the way to theatre and there were lots of tears.
"She just kept saying, 'Don't worry about me, just worry about Tommy.'"
Doctors took part of Taylor's liver from the left side and cut it to size to fit into Tommy's body.
"Every time we got a phone call with an update about Tommy on his surgery day, my heart dropped, but it was good news every time," Beckett continues.
"Seeing Kayleigh out of theatre was such a relief. Though I knew she was healthy before surgery, there's always that fear."
Beckett says Taylor has made a full recovery and thanks to her friend, Tommy is doing really well.
"He'll be on immunosuppressants for the rest of his life so his body doesn't reject Kayleigh's liver," his mum explains. "But he's doing amazingly and hitting milestones that doctors didn't think he would after being in a hospital bed for the first two months of his life."
Reflecting on her family's traumatic journey, Beckett says the whole experience feels like a dream.
"Kayleigh has said before that it doesn't feel like it actually happened and I feel exactly the same," she says. "It didn't even hit home when we left the hospital."
Beckett says she's forever grateful to her friend for giving her son a future.
"It was the hardest thing to ever go through and without Kayleigh, I wouldn't have my little boy," she adds.
"She saved him, and I will never be able to thank her enough."
Taylor, a payroll clerk, who lives in Clare, Suffolk, with her husband, Gary, 44, and their children, Evie 11, and Zach, 10, says she feels emotional when she thinks about the role she played in Tommy's survival.
"I didn't have to consider anything," she says. "I ran it past my family, but it was my decision – I just thought how can anybody not consider it?
"I was only ever scared for Tommy," she continues. "I honestly never thought anything would happen to me – I know there's always a chance, but I knew the odds were stacked against Tommy so I was just terrified that he wouldn't wake up.
"The anaesthetist said the first thing I did when I woke up was ask if Tommy was ok."
Taylor says seeing Tommy now thriving is a huge relief.
"He's doing amazingly and he'll live a full life now which is such a great feeling," she says.
"The connection I have with Tommy is something I've never felt before. It's not even something I have with my own children – it's a totally different feeling, like an overwhelming need to protect him.
"People have said what I've done is amazing, and Lauren and her family have been absolutely incredible, they can't thank me enough, but they don't ever have to thank me.
"I'm just so grateful he's ok."
Additional reporting SWNS.