BRAVE little Niamh Coyne has tugged at the heartstrings of Star readers since we first published her parents’ desperate plea for a liver donor.
Now, after two liver transplants, countless infections and many, many sleepless nights, the four-year-old is finally on the road to starting a normal life.
Doctors have said Niamh will be allowed to mix with other children for the first time, something that has been strictly out of bounds because of the risk of infection.
The decision means her parents Hannah Wilkins, 25, and dad Rob Coyne, 31, of Woodseats, can look forward to packing her off to school in September.
It has been a bumpy road for Niamh, but the little girl has always faced her problems with a beaming smile.
That is why her mum has nominated her for The Star Superkids Special Award.
For the 15th year, The Star is staging a glitzy celebration of South Yorkshire children’s achievements, qualities and talents - and nominations have started coming in.
“I know there are lots of other children out there who face difficult situations,” said Hannah.
“But Niamh is very special and she has been through a lot.”
Niamh suffered liver failure shortly after she was born as a result of an infection from being fed through a tube into her bloodstream.
She needed life-saving surgery when she was just days old and then spent virtually every day in hospital for the next two years.
Niamh was given her first liver transplant aged two, after being given just days to live, undergoing a 10-hour procedure at St James’ Hospital in Leeds.
Although she initially made good progress, 18 months down the line she faced the same situation again after multiple complications caused her liver to swell.
In October Niamh attended Birmingham Children’s Hospital for a nine-hour liver transplant operation with a survival rate of just 40 to 50 per cent.
There were complications in the days following the operation when she developed problems with her lungs and had to be ventilated for a week.
But now, six months later, Niamh is on the way to recovery.
Hannah said: “For the first time this week she passed two consecutive blood tests showing her liver function is normal.
“And they’ve removed the tube to her chest, which is a big step. That was the cause of many, many infections.”
Niamh still has to make regular visits to the children’s hospitals in Birmingham and Sheffield and still has a feeding tube through her nose, but things are on the up.
“She is doing well and she is very happy,” said her mum.
“We’re putting in her school applications for September now. We’re hoping she gets a place at St Thomas of Canterbury Primary at Meadowhead.”