It’s high fives for birthday girl Niamh

Happy birthday to you: Niamh is five years old today.
Happy birthday to you: Niamh is five years old today.
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ADORABLE little Niamh Coyne has had a very merry Christmas – and today will be even better, when she celebrates her birthday!

The youngster, from Totley, who turns five today, has touched the hearts of Star readers ever since we first published her family’s appeal for a liver donor for the poorly toddler nearly three years ago.

Niamh’s early life was dominated by operations, infections and feeding tubes, after she was born with a rare bowel condition.

She needed life-saving surgery when she was just two days old, and then suffered liver failure as a result of being fed directly into her bloodstream through a tube.

The youngster spent the first two years of her life at Sheffield Children’s Hospital and she came close to death on more than one occasion.

But two liver transplants later – the second was carried out just over a year ago – Niamh is finally on the mend.

Now her family is celebrating the end of a really positive year for the youngster.

At the beginning of 2011 doctors finally gave her the all-clear to spend time with other children, after years of virtual isolation due to risk of infection.

That decision, crucially, allowed her parents Hannah Wilkins, 25 and Rob Coyne, 32, to send her to school, and Niamh started at St Thomas of Canterbury in Meadowhead in September.

“Niamh has absolutely loved being at school,” Hannah said.

“She is really enjoying being there, with all the other children.

“She is quite a tomboy really, so she is making lots of friends, especially with the boys.”

The cheeky youngster, who little over a year ago could barely walk, has been taking part in all sorts of school activities and outings.

Last year a physiotherapist had to teach Niamh how to walk up a flight of stairs – but now she has made such progress that she has been able to take dance classes, learning ballet and tap.

A few recurring niggles earlier this month saw her spend a few days back in the hospital, but Niamh was still able to take part in her school nativity play, playing a traveller.

Niamh still needs to carry a feeding tube in a special backpack – and she takes numerous pills to combat the infections that constantly trouble her liver – but her progress has been remarkable.

And her recovery has meant Hannah has been able to start work again, for the first time since her daughter was born, in the genetics department at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Hannah said: “Niamh has had a great first term at school.

“She is really excited about the whole Christmas experience. And she is really excited about her birthday!”

Niamh’s 2011 Highlights:

April: Niamh celebrated Easter with her cousins, after being given the all-clear to have contact with other children for the first time.

may: Niamh was awarded the Star Superkids Special Award 2011 at a ceremony at Mercure St Paul’s Hotel.

SEPTEMBER: Her first day at school, at St Thomas of Canterbury in Meadowhead.

OCTOBER: Niamh was centre of attention at the Steel City derby, as a Sheffield United mascot carried on by Richard Cresswell.

And she joined her dad Rob at a Sheffield Cathedral service for families who have been affected by organ donations.

DECEMBER: Niamh got ready for Christmas – and her birthday!