DonateLife Week, 2020: Liver donation helped Rory Fisher to live again

LIFE TO LIVE: Rory Fisher, 6, (far right) had a liver transplant when he was 10 months old. He is pictured with his siblings Willow, 11, and Lucas, 8, parents Quintyn and Karlie and Pretzel the dog. Photo:JUDE KEOGH
LIFE TO LIVE: Rory Fisher, 6, (far right) had a liver transplant when he was 10 months old. He is pictured with his siblings Willow, 11, and Lucas, 8, parents Quintyn and Karlie and Pretzel the dog. Photo:JUDE KEOGH

ON the same day every year, the Fisher family light a candle and pause for a minute to honour two lives: their son and a stranger.

Rory, 6, was just 10 months old when he received a liver transplant on the same day another person died and their organs were donated to help others.

Rory had jaundice when was born and also had pale coloured stools, which his parents Karlie and Quintyn have since learned can be a sign of liver problems.

"When he was born, he seemed to be healthy. It was an uncomplicated birth and an easy pregnancy," Mrs Fisher said.

At three weeks old, he still had jaundice and a blood test confirmed there was something wrong with Rory's liver.

The family travelled from Orange to The Children's Hospital Westmead for a series of tests, where doctors discovered Rory had biliary atresia, a condition where the bile ducts inside and outside the liver are scarred and blocked.

I'm not someone who generally panics, people would say I'm pretty level-headed, but I was in shock that day.

Karlie Fisher

Mrs Fisher said a surgery that followed bought Rory time, but it was no more than a "stopgap" to try to get him through until he could receive a transplant.

At six months old, Rory was officially in liver failure.

"I'm not someone who generally panics, people would say I'm pretty level-headed, but I was in shock that day," Mrs Fisher said.

Rory was put on the national organ donation register, but as he got sicker and sicker, the family started the process of trying to help him through a living related donor.

"My mum was considered the best candidate. She was actually due to go down and sign all the paperwork when we got the call to go down because they had the liver," Mrs Fisher said.

Rory was in Westmead for seven weeks for the transplant and Mrs Fisher remembers it vividly.

"It's really hard on the actual day because you're so relieved that your child is going to have a chance at a healthy life, but to know someone has had to lose their life for that to happen is a pretty hard thing," she said.

Following the operation, Rory's jaundice-yellow colour improved straight away and Mrs Fisher heard a sound she'd never heard before - he giggled.

"He'd never actually laughed until after his transplant and he was 10 months old," she said.

"It was amazing and I think that's when it started settling in about how unwell he was."

These days, more than five years since Rory's transplant, Mrs Fisher said life is good.

"We had those moments, particularly at the diagnostic stage and during the transplant, when we wondered if he'd ever have a normal life," she said.

"In the last couple of years he's essentially been like any other little boy ... as far as he's concerned he's just a normal little kid."

This DonateLife Week, Mrs Fisher has urged people to consider registering for organ donation.

"I think people have the impression that anyone who dies can transplant organs, but often your organs won't be suitable for transplant," she said.

"I've always been registered to donate, even before I knew it would have an impact on my life.

"I thought I won't be here, so it won't matter."

Rory is now in kindergarten at a school in Orange and he has two older siblings, Willow, 11, and Lucas, 8.

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This story On the day a stranger lost their life, Rory got a second chance at his first appeared on Daily Liberal.