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Megan Carter

"Like she had come to life...": Coolock girl undergoes breakthrough kidney treatment in London

It’s the first time the procedure has been carried out in the UK on a child…

A YOUNG DUBLIN girl has become the first child to benefit from a new technique now being carried out in the UK which leads to successful kidney transplants for previously ‘untransplantable’ children.

14-year-old Megan Carter from Coolock was born with problems with her kidneys which led to her receiving a transplant in Temple Street in 2011.

However, her body rejected the organ leading to it being removed the following day and requiring life-saving dialysis on a daily basis.

She was placed back on the list — but, because of elevated levels of antibodies in her system, the chances of her rejecting a kidney again were high and the chances of a successful operation considered very slim.

With almost no chance of a donor, her family said they felt helpless until Dr Stephen Marks of London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital got in contact.

The consultant outlined a technique being carried out successfully in adults in the UK that flushes out HLA antibodies — which he said could mean that Megan’s dad, Edward, who hadn’t been considered a viable option as a donor, could in fact give her his kidney.

The treatment

After travelling to Great Ormond Street and having her antibodies removed over an intense week, Megan successfully received a kidney transplant from her dad. Three months on, her immune system is almost up to full strength.

Her mum, Carol, noticed an almost immediate difference — saying it was “like she had come to life in front of our eyes”.

Her hair was glossy, eyes were bright, colour in cheeks … she was the child that we should have had before.

Irish Kidney Association/family handout

So how does the treatment work?

Here’s the science, from the Irish Kidney Association:

It sets about removing HLA antibodies using a filtering process of blood, called plasmapheresis, in which blood is taken out of the body, filtered to remove HLA antibodies and then re-introduced back in to the child.HLA antibodies are known to be difficult to remove from the body as it is harder to target them specifically than with other antibodies.As there will still be antibodies in the patient, which can react when the kidney is transplanted, this technique requires stronger immunosuppressant drugs to be administered to the patient in order to make sure that as many HLA antibodies are removed and to reduce the likelihood of them causing severe rejection of the kidney.

In the past, patients would have lost these kidneys due to severe rejection, resulting in the requirement for dialysis.

According to Dr Marks, it’s the first time the procedure has been carried out in the UK on a child “which is important as children have different immune systems compared to adults”.

Kidney transplantation offers the best quality and quantity of life for children with severe irreversible kidney failure and the new technique could make transplants possible in these children when it hasn’t been previously, avoiding their reliance on dialysis.

(Note: For an organ donor card, you can freetext the word ‘DONOR’ to 50050 or visit the Irish Kidney Association website)

Read: More transplants than ever were carried out in Ireland last year

Read: “Bestowed a bright shining light”: Appleby jewellers’ son saved by donor

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