a bow-tiful life!
Glen and Anthea Anderson’s world was turned upside down when they discovered their precious daughter, Elise, had a life threatening liver condition. But thanks to the marvels of modern medical intervention and the ongoing support of the Maroochydore Child Development Centre, their pint-sized princess has been given a second chance at life.
On first impressions, little Elise Anderson looks like any other three-year-old girl. Dressed in her pretty pink party dress, the dainty tot pours me a fairy-sized cup of tea while busily attending to the teddy bear guests who are also joining us.
But this brave little girl has had a rockier start to life than most of us. Diagnosed with a cyst on her liver at just six months of age, it was later discovered Elise would need a liver transplant and she underwent the life saving surgery last year. Taking it all in her stride, the courageous little lady is testament to the strength of the human spirit and the highly skilled health professionals who have helped her on her remarkable journey.
“Elise was full term but she was only four pounds when she was born, and we didn’t really know what the issues were. But three weeks later we found she had a cleft palate and we thought, ‘Okay, we will have surgery to repair it and she will be fine’,” says mum, Anthea.
Six months later and unfortunately, Elise still wasn’t thriving and after further tests, it was discovered she had a cyst on her liver.
“We had a lot of feeding problems with her so she had a feeding tube put in for six months, which wasn’t fun but it allowed her to grow bigger and stronger for what was to be a one-off surgery to remove the cyst,” says Anthea.
“However, just one hour into the surgery we got a call from the surgeon and we knew something was wrong. My poor husband just about fainted when they told us her entire liver was cirrhotic and she would need a transplant. It was worse than any of the doctors had anticipated.”
Elise was kept stable on various medications with a feeding tube or peg directly into her stomach for 12 months and was then actively on the donor waiting list for three months before a match was found. It was a life changing moment Anthea and her husband will never forget.
“It was a very emotional time. You have to be prepared for the phone call but you don’t want to put your life on hold,” says Anthea.
Every phone call could be ‘the one’ and when it did happen at 9.30 one night, it was a rollercoaster mix of emotions. It’s exciting but you know there has to be more testing once they sight the organ and make sure it’s a match and then my thoughts immediately went to the donor family and what they were going through.”
Thankfully, it was a match and Elise came through the operation with flying colours.
“When they took the liver out it was the size of a dinner plate, and the cyst was about was the size of an orange,” says Anthea.
“All we know is that it was a healthy adult organ. She got portions two and three and an adult got the other portions, so more than one life was saved.
“It was very successful, often there are complications but Elise didn’t have any. She was out of bed after six days and was home after 11 days.
She had quite a lot of medication at the beginning as her immune system was turned off for three months to accept the organ. Now she only needs one anti-rejection tablet once a day.”
Growing stronger by the day and now reaching all of her milestones, Anthea says she is forever grateful to the surgeons and highly skilled health professionals who saved her daughter’s life, including the life changing support of the Maroochydore Child Development Centre (CDS), funded by Wishlist.
“From a very young age Elise has had assessments through the CDS. At six months she was involved in a weekly group therapy session, which included a physiotherapist, speech pathologist and occupational therapist. The facilities on Wises Road are very good and all of the staff are excellent. Wishlist has played an immense part in providing equipment, facilities and services that would not have been available otherwise.”
As I am leaving, Elise stands on her tippy toes, arms above her head like a prima ballerina and says goodbye with one of her favourite quotes from her idol, yellow Wiggle, Emma.
“Have a bow-tiful day,” she says softly, her bright blue eyes dancing with mischief.
After meeting you Elise, how could it be anything but.
Question time with Wishlist CEO Lisa Rowe
Profile: What is the Maroochydore Child Development Centre (CDS) and how do they help children like Elise?
The CDS really has changed lives for countless families across the Coast and was one of our largest financial commitments to relocate and extend the service to the tune of $1.4 million over three years. It was the Sunshine Coast community who rallied together to provide the service for children needing to access physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, social workers, dietitians and psychologists all under the one roof.
Profile: How were the funds raised?
It was the generosity of local people who supported 92.7 MixFM’s Give Me 5 for Kids appeal each year and Run Sunshine Coast in 2014 and 2015. We were able to move the service from a small space at Nambour General Hospital to a much larger and refurbished area at Wises Road in Maroochydore.
Profile: How many families have benefitted from the new centre?
Wishlist committed to funding the rental of the new space for three years, as well as funding extra health staff – all completely with donations. In 2017 the CDS provided more than 3500 occasions of service to more than 439 children and their families.