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Tessa R.

Biliary Atresia

I would like the opportunity to share my story with not only you but to further offer my story as a form of education, inspiration, to give faith and hope to parents with sick newborns/ children. Before I was born, I was expected to die. I am a survivor, a miracle and a fighter.

I was born with Biliary Atresia. I was dealt an unfair hand but have never viewed it that way and because of that I am the person I am today. I was born 2 months premature, had cirrhosis of the liver and at birth was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia at ‘0 weeks old’. At the age of 1 my Mum was told I would need a liver transplant, as the ‘temporary’ fix known as the Kasai is not always successful, especially if it is not done before 5 weeks. However, I was premature and theoretically had the Kasai procedure at 0 weeks old. My mum was told to treat me as a sick child, that I would not go on to live a normal life.

My journey through life has had its trials and I have been tested but I have always come out on top. I went onto a High School in Cape Town, South Africa. I played multiple sports and particularly excelled in Water polo and Hockey, playing at a provincial level for both sports for 5 years. I did well in my academics and went onto to study at The University of Cape Town and further studied Sports & Exercise Nutrition. I am now 23 years old and still have not had a transplant and believe I will never need one.

I particularly battled in the year 2015, my 17th year. A 10cm cyst on my colon was found, twisting my gut, and strangling my colon. I was training very hard at the time in preparation for the South African Ladies Water polo Team trial, I had been invited to the training squad, but it all came to an end when I fell very ill. I was operated on to remove the cyst, what was meant to be a key-hole procedure turned into an open-cut surgery – my biggest nightmare. I came out of this procedure having lost an extensive amount of weight, I was unable to continue with my sporting abilities for both Water polo and Hockey. Later in that same year I developed 2 bowel obstructions in my small intestine, they say this is a side effect of Biliary Atresia but it managed to happen the same year I got this cyst on my colon. It was a very hard year for me, I spent many days and hours in hospital trying to navigate all of this, but I bounced back and came out on top, I still ended the year playing water polo for my province.

I have managed my health through a holistic lifestyle and ensuring the correct nutrition. 23 years old with no transplant or prospect of needing one, and 6 years hospital free this year, 2021.


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