'Miracle' gift of organ donation saves one year old's life

Leo Nairn’s family say they are very grateful to his medical team and the family who donated their own child’s organ so theirs may live. Pictures: Jack Tran
Leo Nairn’s family say they are very grateful to his medical team and the family who donated their own child’s organ so theirs may live. Pictures: Jack Tran

THEY said he wouldn't make it to his first birthday, but a miracle happened for little Leo Nairn - he was given the ultimate gift of life from another baby.

The Brisbane tot was diagnosed with biliary atresia at eight weeks old.

The disease destroys the bile ducts but with a liver transplant the 20-year survival rate is 80 per cent.

At five months, Leo was on the brink of death and a transplant seemed out of reach.

"I truly believe that the parents of a very sick baby read the stories in The Sunday Mail highlighting our frantic race to save Leo," mum Kimberly Nairn said.

"We were preparing to say goodbye to him when, out of the blue, a complete baby liver became available.

"This is so very rare.

"The organ was simply the most perfect fit for our baby and it came out of the blue."

Leo celebrates his first birthday this week and for mum Kimberly, it's a highly emotional time.

She hopes the grieving donor parents who lost their child will see today's paper and get some comfort from Leo's story. Strict privacy controls prevent information from the donor register being released.

The Sunday Mail covered Kimberly and her husband Matthew's fight for doctors to allow them to donate part of their own livers. They were told the process was too risky and would be a last resort as they have another child.

Baby Leo with his mother Kimberly Nairn.
Baby Leo with his mother Kimberly Nairn.

"We would have died for Leo," Ms Nairn said.

"As it happens, they eventually allowed Matthew to be worked up to donate but they found he had a defective gene that cancelled him out as a donor."

Leo's recovery has been remarkable. He will face the challenges of immune suppression but his family hopes to watch the little dynamo grow up into a healthy boy.

"Thirty years ago biliary atresia was a death sentence but thanks to transplant surgery there is great hope," Ms Nairn said.

"I am so grateful for Leo's surgeon Dr Peter Hodgkinson and his team at Lady Cilento Children's Hospital.

"They literally are lifesavers.

"After the transplant operation the surgeon said that Leo's liver was no longer viable.

"So the gift of life from another beautiful baby was perfectly timed."

A record breaking 22,000 Australians registered to donate organs when they die after a Sunday Mail campaign revealed an organ shortage was driving Australians to buy body parts on the black market. Visit to register as an organ donor.

Topics:  editors picks lady cilento children's hopsital liver organ donation sick children

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