THE family of a three-year-old boy from Co Armagh are celebrating after he became one of the youngest and smallest people in Northern Ireland to receive a kidney transplant.
Olly Cartmill from Bessbrook suffers from a rare condition known as TTC21B which causes kidney failure, which meant he was constantly fatigued and had to endure 14 hours of dialysis every night while restricting his fluid intake.
After a campaign from his family, he eventually received a kidney from his grandmother Michelle despite him only weighing 13kg at the time.
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Speaking to the BBC, Olly’s mum Dionne said it had been a painful journey for their little boy.
"We always knew Olly was sick," she said.
"If we hadn't have taken him to Daisy Hill Hospital for a blood test they told us he wouldn't be here, which is a scary thought.
"He cried from morning to night. If he got about 15 minutes (of sleep) that was it. There's nothing you could do to settle him. He cried, he was sore all over and dying of thirst but was only allowed 100ml of water every day.
"He didn't want to interact with other children, and was in a really bad way. Looking back now I think: 'How did we get through that?'”
She said after his illness has taken the joy out of his first two Christmases, the family can’t wait to see him open his toys this year.
Leading renal surgeon Tim Brown performed the operation at Belfast City Hospital and said Olly’s young age made things especially difficult.
"We're using an adult kidney and obviously that's a fair size compared to a child's tummy," he said.
"Finding somewhere to put it…the size of the vessels that we have to stitch the kidney onto are so much smaller, so it's always more stressful to get it right.
"But it's a real privilege to be able to take part in this family's journey.”
He added: "Kidney disease makes such a huge impact on children's growth, their development, their ability to eat and even attendance at school - so this is a winning lottery ticket for young Olly.”
Calling it the smallest transplant his team in Belfast has ever attempted, he said Olly’s progress so far had been positive.
The family appeal for a kidney donor was said to have overwhelmed the phone lines at Belfast City Hospital before Olly’s grandmother was found to be a match.
"I got a phone call to say I was a match and I couldn't believe it," she said.
"I was delighted I could do that for my grandson, so it's an amazing feeling. It was really hard to watch him and not be able to do the things other three-year-old children would do, so to see the difference in him now is unbelievable."
Olly’s one-year-old sister Etta also has the same condition and will one day need a transplant when she is older.
Their dad Neil commented: "We actually were in hospital when we found out Etta had stage five chronic kidney disease as well.
"It's a full-time job for the two of us looking after the two of them. We are in the hospital at least two or three times a week.
"We have one sorted out but now have a while to wait to get Etta sorted as well but hopefully we will get there.
"We are confident she will have a kidney transplant too."