An eight-year-old boy struck down by a life-threatening illness from E. coli poisoning has been saved thanks to a kidney transplant from his mum.
Leo McFaulds caught the bug along with his little brother in May and developed Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS) – a rare illness affecting the blood, causing anaemia and kidney failure.
The boys’ parents, Louise and Anthony, believe they may have contracted E. coli when out on a countryside walk in the highlands, but will never know for sure.
They were taken to hospital after falling drastically ill and were transferred to the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow for kidney dialysis.
Leo’s mum told STV News that the treatment meant the boys could not go to school or play with their friends as well as affecting their development.
She said: “To have both boys struck down with the same illness and both having lifesaving treatment at the same time was harrowing. It was an awful time for our family as it came on so suddenly.
“Leo went from being a typical happy, healthy boy, who played in the garden with his brother and attended school, to being completely hospital-bound and unable to fully engage with normal life.”
But while four-year-old Samuel made a full recovery, the family had to relocate to the city to be nearby as Leo’s treatment continued for over two months.
Having been moved on to three times weekly dialysis in August, Leo’s mum was quickly identified as a potential match for the eight-year-old with the transplant operation scheduled for February.
Mrs McFaulds told STV News that both her and Leo’s dad were keen to be the donor. She said: “When we took the first cross-match test, we found out that I was just the slightly better match.
“Obviously I was over the moon that I had a chance of being the person who woulod donate to him. Any parent would feel the same when your child is seriously ill and I just feel really grateful that I got that opportunity and that I was able to make the difference to him.”
Mrs McFaulds said that despite the enormous pressure on hospital staff from the coronavirus pandemic, at no point did the family feel little Leo’s care had been compromised.
She said they would always be grateful to the surgeons, doctors and nurses at the Royal Hospital for Children and the Glasgow Hospital Children’s Charity for helping keep Leo’s mind off his illness during his stay.
Leo received the renal transplant on February 10 and is recovering well. His was the twelfth paediatric kidney transplant performed at the hospital in the 12 months.
Mrs McFaulds said: “It’s a gift for me to see him the way that he is now. Leo will always have kidney disease, and Samuel and myself will have follow up for some time to come. We know there will be bumps in the road ahead, but to look back six months, to compare where we are now it’s a miracle really.
“Leo now has his life back and we’ll be counting the small milestones – going back to school, going swimming and maybe even a holiday – as victories and we will never take any of these happy family moments for granted in future.”
Dr Ben Reynolds, consultant paediatric nephrologist at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, who leads the transplant service, said: “It is fantastic to see Leo recovering well and full of energy again, full of eight-year-old mischief and silliness.
“At the Royal Hospital for Children we’re lucky to be one of only two children’s kidney transplant centres in the UK able to maintain a full schedule of renal transplants throughout the pandemic.
“This is so important for children like Leo where there is a well matched donor, and the operation means we can get them off dialysis and back to as normal a life, as quickly as possible.
“Transplant is almost always the best thing for any child on dialysis. The change to the kidney opt-out scheme in Scotland at the end of the March still relies on people registering their wishes.
“We would always encourage anyone to discuss this with their families and loved ones about giving the gift of life.”