The grandma who risked her life to save her granddaughter from liver disease

Doctors say a toddler has made a "remarkable" recovery after her grandmother underwent potentially life-threatening surgery to donate part of her liver.

Phoebe Elliston, who has liver disease and has spent much of her life at Leeds Children's Hospital, was left facing an uncertain future after an initial transplant failed.

But her grandmother Debbie Souter-Matthews put herself forward as a donor in the hope that she could save the little girl's life.

She said: "There is a chance that I could have died, so, yes, it is a massive thing to undertake, but well worth it. Definitely worth it."

Phoebe has biliary atresia, a type of liver diease where the bile ducts do not function properly. It affects only one in around 15,000 babies.

If untreated, children have less than a 50% chance of living beyond the age of five.

Phoebe was diagnosed with liver disease at just four weeks old. Credit: Family photograph

Phoebe's mum, Lauren, said her daughter would not have survived without a transplant.

"At the time we were just dealing with everything day by day, but then she got poorly really quickly, she wasn't feeding. As soon as she fell ill mum started tests to be a donor but one became available. She had a transplant but it just didn't work. Then mum became the best option."

The operations took place in October 2021.

Lauren said: "That day was horrendous when they were both in surgery at the same time. Horrendous, I was asking ''is mum ok, is Phoebe ok? Now she just gets stronger and stronger every day. At the end of the day mum has saved her life."

Debbie, from Wigan, said it was a special feeling to know that she had given her grand-daughter a future.

"I still look at her and think part of my liver is in there, two people sharing one liver," she said.

Phoebe in Leeds Children's Hospital Credit: Family photo

Dr Sanjay Rajwal, who treated Phoebe, said she is making good progress.

"Phoebe is doing great, it is so rewarding to see her like this. It makes the job worthwhile. We just see her once every two to three months now," he said.,

Phoebe has made such a good recovery that she is now taking part in the under-fives race at the British Transplant Games in Leeds, which starts today.

Phoebe is now set to take part in the British Transplant Games. Credit: Family photograph

She has been raising money for the Leeds Children's Hospital Charity, which is sponsoring the team.

The Leeds Children's Hospital is one of the biggest of its kind in the UK and there are plans for a new state-or-the-art building on the site of former nurses' homes at the Leeds General Infirmary.

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