Little Ava’s big steps help others

James, Ava and Tegan Bancroft… “Ava’s recovery was unbelievable. After 24 hours she was up and walking,” says James.  Photo by Andrew Finch

James, Ava and Tegan Bancroft… “Ava’s recovery was unbelievable. After 24 hours she was up and walking,” says James.  Photo by Andrew Finch

EIGHT-year-old Ava Bancroft and her family will be part of this year’s special Gift of Life’s DonateLife Walk around Lake Burley Griffin on February 24.

Special for two reasons; it’s the walk’s 10th anniversary promoting awareness about organ and tissue donation and it celebrates Ava’s return to good health after a transplant.

Gift of Life president, David O’Leary, says 2015 was a record year for organ donations, which is heartening as only one per cent of deaths fall into the category for successful organ and tissue donation.

“It’s not an easy topic but we want to encourage the community to discuss their wishes with their family as well as sign on to the national register. We know that when people have registered and made their wishes clear to their families the consent for donation is 90 per cent,” says David.

Little Ava’s life changed almost overnight thanks to organ donation. Her kidneys had suddenly shut down due to a rare disorder called Dense Deposit Disease that affects one in every two million births.

Her dad, James, recalls that she became seriously ill one week after her fifth birthday, ending up in intensive care at Canberra Hospital for two weeks before she was stable enough to be moved to Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney, and commenced dialysis to take over the function of her shut-down kidneys.

“It was a very tough time,” says James. “We lived at the hospital for six months, and over that time we were trained in how to give her dialysis, so we were eventually able to go home.”

From left, David O'Leary, Tegan, Imogen, Ava, Hunter and James Bancroft. Photo by Andrew Finch

From left, David O’Leary, Tegan, Imogen, Ava, Hunter and James Bancroft. Photo by Andrew Finch

James describes the steep learning curve and frustrations of setting up all the checks and the machine every day so Ava was able to live.

“She managed to go to school during the day but as soon as she got home she went straight back on the machine and was on it overnight as well. She was so tired and slept all the time,” he says.

After two years on dialysis, Ava’s health was failing and she was placed on priority list for a kidney donation. Luckily, once she was actively on the list, a matching, donated kidney became available and the family raced to Sydney for her life-saving surgery.

“Her recovery was unbelievable. After 24 hours she was up and walking,” says James.

“She began to eat foods that she wasn’t able to when she was sick. She gained weight and has grown 20 centimetres over the past year!

“She now has the energy to be a normal kid and enjoy the things that we normally take for granted that she missed out on for years.

“If anyone isn’t sure about organ donation, take a look at what a difference it has made to Ava. Once you pass on, your organs are of no use and can give life to others in their time of need.”

Ava, her parents and her little sister and brother will be doing the bridge-to-bridge walk together.

David says that the organisers are hoping for a record turnout for the special 10th year anniversary of the event.

David also knows first hand the great gift of life an organ donation can be, having had a liver transplant 25 years ago after contracting severe hepatitis on an overseas work posting.

“I needed a new liver on short notice and I was so lucky to get a donation, especially since it was very early days for transplants. I am so thankful I had the opportunity,” he says.

“Twenty five years on, no one expected I’d be here. My story shows what a benefit organ donation can be in dire circumstances. But it can’t happen without the donor’s families.”

DonateLife Walk, Wednesday, February 24, starting from Regatta Point at 7am sharp. Register at giftoflife.asn.au

  

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