Xavier holding his favourite book

Xavier’s precious gift of life

Liver transplant bolsters brave cancer battle.

Xavier, 7. Xavier loves to pass time with his Hairy McClary books. Picture: Mark Stewart

Just like his favourite character Hairy Maclary, seven-year-old Xavier wants to go out and play with his friends.

But he has faced more obstacles than a simple garden fence to do so, and was diagnosed with an aggressive liver cancer that failed to respond to chemotherapy after he began prep last year.

Mum Heather said his health deteriorated so suddenly – they were overseas at the time – that Xavier had to be medically evacuated back to Australia.

“Literally one day you’ve got a healthy child and then … he got sick and went downhill very quickly,” she said.

It would mark the start of months in hospital, with the family of four – mum Heather Davis, dad Chris and twins Xavier and Zander – split in two as they tried to juggle life in and out of the hospital.

Xavier became increasingly unwell, until an angel saved his life and a grieving family gave a gift that nobody can ever truly repay.

With his liver cancer failing to respond to treatment, the Royal Children’s Hospital had decided the best way to fight Xavier’s liver cancer was to remove the entire organ.

Associate Professor George Alex, who is the hospital’s gastroenterology and clinical nutrition department director and looked after Xavier, said in most cases liver cancer could be treated with chemotherapy and surgical removal of the tumour.

But he said they did “one to two liver transplants a year for the purposes of a liver tumour”, when the tumour had become “quite widespread”.

Ms Davis could not hold back the tears when she shared how thankful they were to Xavier’s organ donor and their family, and said they had given her son the “opportunity of growing older”. “We’re very thankful to the family for that gift,” she said.

“I think if people can consider having that conversation (about organ donation) that’s really, really important.”

She said Xavier had been “recovering really well” and was able to return home after the transplant.

“When he’s up to going to school, he’s at school. He loves being back there.”

Ms Davis recalled Xavier’s first day of grade 1, quashing any fears the kids would not remember him after he missed out on months of classes.

“He was really excited to go back to school and see his friends,” she said. “The school made quite a big deal about it.

“They were all excited to see him and were cheering him on as he arrived for his first day.” But on the days where he does have to return to hospital, he has some friends on the ward too, such as the hospital teacher who helped Xavier make the space posters that now adorn his hospital room.

“That’s one of the highlights of the day, is knowing that his teacher is going to come in and they’re doing some schoolwork and they’re going to read,” she said. “He loves reading Hairy Maclary.”

It’s just one of the services that makes up, in the words of Ms Davis, the “world class facility” that is the Royal Children’s Hospital and she encouraged Victorians to think about donation – both to the Good Friday Appeal and as an organ donor.

“(The hospital) is second to none,” she said.

Originally published in the Herald Sun
Words: Sarah Booth
Pictures: Mark Stewart

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