Liam Hills couldn’t wait to leave the Children’s Liver Unit at King’s in February. A transplant operation earlier that month had given him a new lease of life and he wanted to get outside and start living it – especially as his discharge date coincided with his 8th birthday!
But things could have turned out very differently for the lively Sussex youngster. After a devastating diagnosis of liver cancer in 2018, doctors at other hospitals could eventually offer no further treatments to help Liam. But mum Sarah demanded a second opinion and King’s Liver Unit came to her aid.
They initially hoped that a partial removal of Liam’s liver and chemotherapy would halt the progression of his cancer but when it started to attack his liver once more surgeons decided to perform a full liver transplant.
Just two days after his major operation Liam was out of the high dependency unit and back onto the ward, with his mind firmly set on going home.
“Liam’s amazing,” says Sarah. “He’s got such an infectious personality and he’s so strong willed and really determined. His name actually means ‘warrior’ so there was no way that I was ever going to give up the fight for him.”
Liam was initially diagnosed with Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a type of liver cancer that usually affects adults. But further investigations by King’s revealed that he had Hepatoblastoma, a rare type of children’s liver cancer. They also concluded that further treatment options were available.
“To find out that your child has cancer, to see him get really poorly and then to be told that nothing further can be done for him is unimaginable” says Sarah. “But King’s were different. They said they were going to try to fight for Liam and as soon as we got here we felt instantly reassured.
We felt we were treated like real people, not numbers. Everyone took time out of their day to talk to us, explain everything to us, even finding us somewhere to stay. It’s never easy being far from home and they know that. People really went out of their way to do nice things for Liam; to make him feel happy. We really feel like we’ve been treated with love.
When we realised that Liam was going to need a full transplant I was really scared. It’s a big deal but I trusted the surgeons. They all wanted to do Liam’s operation –they all wanted to help my son. To me that speaks volumes. It just goes to show what a special place King’s is and what a massive difference a hospital like King’s can make.”
"I've called my new liver Miriam after the lady who did my operation", said Liam. "I know I've got to look after Miriam."