Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland teenager who had three liver transplants honoured for donor appeals

By Ed Carty

A teenager from Ballycastle who has been through three liver transplants is the youngest person in the UK to be named in the New Year Honours.

Lucia Quinney Mee (18) receives a British Empire Medal for her work to promote organ donation.

She said she hoped the award would encourage more people to talk to their loved ones about leaving vital organs after their death.

She added: "The fact that I'm here and really able to do this is down to the fact that there are organ donors.

"The main message is that if people would agree to give their organs, to tell loved ones and relatives... I hope it's a conversation started for people, that they should be aware of their decisions and that it's not something that you are unaware of or that comes as shock.

"If people know their loved ones' wishes they are more likely to say yes to organ donation."

Lucia first spoke publicly about her ordeal just a few months after her first transplant when she was asked to explain it to specialist transplant nurses.

In 2015, the year of her third transplant, she set up the Live Loudly Donate Proudly campaign to raise awareness of organ donation through education, communication and conversation.

Lucia, a pupil at Cross and Passion College in Ballycastle, was just eight when she suddenly suffered acute liver failure and was rushed to a specialist children's hospital in Birmingham in late 2007 for a transplant. Within 12 hours she had a new liver.

Unfortunately, the organ was rejected the following year and she found herself back on the transplant list one year to the date of the first operation.

Lucia had to wait several months for a new liver and in January 2009 she underwent another gruelling but potentially life-changing operation. That organ was with her until 2015 when she found herself back on the transplant list again after complications from a kidney stone took its toll.

But since then the teenager has been back competing at the British Transplant Games and has returned to school.

"We are all only able to do this because someone has given us the gift of life," she said. "It's what spurs us on. The difference between now and 2015, I can't really describe it.

"I'm a different person - I have a lot of energy. I'm back to school, doing A-levels and planning to go to university. I'm living a fairly normal life.

"I'd like to do something like medical science or biomedical science and then go on to do a graduate degree in medicine."

Lucia revealed how she learned of the honour after a letter from the Cabinet Office in London came to her home at the start of December.

"I opened it, read it and I was a bit more confused," she said.

"I didn't know what the award was to begin with. I was just really shocked. My dad had to explain it to me."

Belfast Telegraph

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