WITH the liver of a 40-year-old alcoholic, Finova Santos was days away from death when she arrived in the ACT.
Two litres of waste had filled her abdomen and her mother Rita Borges,23, was preparing for the worst.
Canberra’s Rotary Oceanic Medical Aid for Children (ROMAC), which helps children from developing countries afflicted with severe medical conditions, spent about $50,000 to fly the pair from East Timor to the ACT for Finova’s life saving treatment.
In Australia, choledochal cysts– a deformity where bile ducts in the liver are deformed, can be diagnosed during foetal ultrasounds and treated at birth.
Finova, about to turn two, was so ill she was transferred from Canberra to Westmead Children’s Hospital.
Paediatric surgeon Albert Shun said three weeks in intensive care were needed before doctors agreed she could survive a five-hour operation to remove the cyst.
‘‘She had a terrible infection and bile that should have been collecting in her liver had been collecting in her abdomen for one year,’’ he said.
Canberra Hospital surgeon David Croaker assisted with the surgery in Sydney and said cirrhosis could lead to further complications.
Speaking to the Sunday Canberra Times through an interpreter Mrs Borges said Finova was learning to walk.
‘‘Before her stomach so big she could not sit up or walk,’’ she said.
ROMAC receives more than 100 applications to treat seriously ill children, but can only afford to sponsor about 35 each year.