Isla Marshall was born in the afternoon on November 10, 2015 a healthy seven pounds measuring 21 inches. Evan and Katie Marshall were so proud and in love with their new baby girl.
Even though Isla appeared healthy, she had trouble gaining weight. The doctor did express some concern after two weeks of no improvement. During the three-week check-up, the Marshall family expressed concern about Isla’s jaundice. Shortly thereafter, the family went to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia to meet with a pediatrician and have bloodwork done. After all necessary testing, it was revealed that Isla had a rare liver disease called Biliary Atresia, which affects only 1 in 10,000 children in Canada. This rare disease affects the liver and bile ducts.
Isla was immediately booked for a Kasai Procedure, a procedure that assisted with blocked ducts and prevents liver damage, on December 22, 2015, at only 12 days old.
After Isla’s surgery, the family remained hopeful that this would provide some longevity and quality to her life. The family was well-informed this was likely going to be a short-term solution and a liver transplant would be required before Isla’s first birthday. For the first month, Isla’s health did improve and this gave the Marshall family a lot of hope for their new family.
In January 2016, Isla came down with a fever continued to worsen. She became more and more yellow, her belly swelled with fluid, and she slowly lost her sparkle. Keeping a close eye on their baby, the family returned home.
In May 2016, Isla was readmitted to hospital as a result of a swollen belly, which caused her to have difficulty breathing and sleeping at night. During this visit, the healthcare team advised that a transplant was in the very near future. This news was not surprising to the Marshalls.
Later that same week, the family met with Isla’s primary physician and it was clear that an assessment by the transplant team at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto was imminent. The Marshalls were being assisted by a social worker who had them apply to the David Foster Foundation and the Ronald MacDonald House Toronto for assistance. Both of which took away the burden of coordinating and planning the transplant assessment trip.
The Marshall family flew to Toronto with the David Foster Foundation’s National Partner, WestJet, and arrived for the week-long stay of testing and appointments for Isla. The week quickly turned into two due to Katie undergoing testing to be Isla’s living donor.
On May 31, at approximately 2:00 PM the Marshalls received the call that they were waiting for; Katie was a match for Isla. The surgery would be scheduled for June 30. The David Foster Foundation was able to step in again to assist with the non-medical expenses associated with a child going through a transplant. Both Evan and Katie were on leave from work at this time, and the financial stress was very real. Without the support they were provided, the family would have been unable to take the time they needed to be with their daughter.
The trip they were waiting for had finally arrived, and the family was excited, scared, and anxious. At this point, Isla was incredibly ill; her belly was bloated again, she had stopped gaining weight, and her bones had deteriorated due to a severe vitamin deficiency.
The surgery was successful; however, the post-operative period was rough. Isla was on mechanical ventilation for a number of days. Slowly as the week went on, both Isla and Katie recovered. Katie was discharged from hospital on day five, and Isla was taken off the ventilator by day six.
Throughout this journey, the Marshalls are humbled by the tremendous support around them. Their home was looked after by friends and neighbours, and financially by the David Foster Foundation. By August, Isla and Katie were doing well and had been cleared by the doctors to come back home to Nova Scotia.
Isla has been thriving since the transplant. Katie’s scar is looked at as a badge of honour and each day she is thankful for the gift she was able to give her daughter.
“Without the financial assistance of the David Foster Foundation, we would have struggled to make the assessment trip happen, which could have negatively impacted the health of our little miss. A burden no parent ever wants to be impacted by.” – Katie Marshall
Today, Isla is six years post-transplant. Her family shares that she is full of personality, spunk, and attitude. She keeps us on our feet, laughing, and full of love. She loves dancing, singing, and swimming. She is not living in a bubble by any means and they intend to let her experience life to the fullest.
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