NINE-YEAR-OLD William Newton set off this week for the Games.
It was nothing to do with the run-up to the London Olympics but an event much closer to his heart, the Transplant Games.
For William has recovered from two liver transplants within a few months to build up his health and fitness after being diagnosed with a rare and life-threatening condition when he was less than a month old.
The condition, biliary atresia, meant his bile ducts were blocked, leaving his liver scarred and badly damaged.
His parents, Tracy and Philip, of Dronfield Woodhouse, were devastated but William began the slow road to recovery after undergoing the two transplants and spending more than six months in hospital.
His progress is reflected in him competing in the Westfield Health British Transplant Games for the fifth year in a row. The family set off this week for the latest Games in Belfast, where William will compete in badminton and table tennis.
After initially taking part in the ball throw, running and obstacle race, he won gold in badminton and bronze in table tennis last year in Bath and gold in badminton in Coventry the previous year.
It’s all in contrast to soon after he was born when blood tests and scans at Sheffield Children’s Hospital showed he had developed jaundice.
William was transferred to Leeds Children’s Hospital, where he underwent surgery in an attempt to repair his bile duct. However, his condition worsened and the family was told he would need a transplant.
Tracy, aged 45, who gave up work to care for her son, and quantity surveyor Philip, aged 42, spent as much time as they could at hospital. William’s sister Megan, then two, went to live with her grandparents during the week.
Following the transplant, William was put on dialysis to keep his kidneys functioning but he contracted infections and, almost three months later, Tracy and Philip were told that William’s body had not accepted the new liver. He would need a second liver transplant and he was put back on the organ donor register.
Tracy said: “Chronic rejection normally happens very quickly but William’s body kept fighting for a lot longer. Unfortunately there was nothing any of us could do and we were back to square one, which was heartbreaking.”
After just four days of being on the register, William underwent a second operation which was successful. “It was such a relief but obviously we knew that he still had a long way to go.”
The first few years were really difficult for the family, said Tracy. “We were concerned about the effects on William’s development and he was in and out of hospital with various infections as his immune system was still quite low. He also had to be fed through a tube in his nose as he was unable to digest food properly.”
But William made a steady recovery and started at a mainstream school, although he suffers from low concentration levels and has low muscle tone, meaning he has to limit the amount of physical activity he does.
William took part in the British Transplant Games for the first time in Edinburgh in 2007 and has competed on the Leeds Children’s Team ever since.
This year, the community in Dronfield has raised more than £2,000 to help the team get to the Games. The parish church, Dronfield Relief Fund and local businesses have all donated funds.
Tracy said: “It is fantastic to see William with other people, particularly children, who have been through transplants as it makes him feel like everyone else. He really thrives at the event and, without the Transplant Games, William wouldn’t have had the chance to get involved in sport on this scale. We are so proud to watch him compete.”
It is estimated that 28% of the UK population is on the organ donor register. However, the figure in South Yorkshire is 24%.
Tracy added: “It’s great that the event raises awareness of the importance of joining the donor register. We are so lucky that William is still here with us and that he is able to lead a full and happy life thanks to the generosity of a family that sadly wasn’t so lucky.”