Short Bowel Survivor & Friends

Virginia's Story:Manchester medics give new hope to five-year-old Italian girl... by Alice McKeegan for Manmedia

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A five-year-old Italian girl with a rare medical condition has flown to Manchester to undergo life-changing surgery at the city’s children’s hospital.

Virginia Vicari has short bowel syndrome, which means she cannot absorb enough nutrients from food.
She was born eight weeks prematurely and doctors quickly discovered she had a life-threatening intestinal blockage.
The tot had to endure around six operations within a couple of years to try to clear it – and was left with just 6cm out of a possible 250cm of bowel.

She faced a lifetime of artificial feeding or transplants – because doctors in Italy were unable to extend the bowel.
The tot had to be hooked up to a feeding machine at her Milan home, five days a week for 12 hours at a time, just to stay alive – but was offered a lifeline by medics at the Royal Manchester Children’sHospital.

Her parents, Davide and Alessandra, both 40, met the hospital’s consultant paediatric and neonatal surgeon Antonino Morabito – who also hails from Italy - at a conference in their home country last year. He said she might be suitable for specialist surgery to lengthen her bowel.

Tests showed that she was strong enough to undergo the procedure, which is only performed at a handful of hospitals across the world, including Manchester.

Virginia flew to Manchester earlier this month with her parents and brothers Daniele, 13, Riccardo, 11, and Stefano, five, and had the surgery last week.

The results of the operation will not be known for a few weeks but it has an excellent success rate with around 90 per cent of patients able to live without artificial feeding. And all the early signs are good for Virginia as the day after the surgery she stunned staff by tucking into pasta – proving that her appetite was back.

Her parents hope she will be able to go home at the end of the month and will be well enough to start primary school with her friends in September.

Davide said: “When Virginia was born we knew something was wrong but didn’t know exactly what it was. She had a number of operations in Italy but without success – they then told us she had short bowel syndrome and it wasn’t possible for her to have the bowel-lengthening surgery at home in Italy.

“When we heard that she could have the surgery in Manchester we had to come. We like Manchester very much apart from the weather.

"The city has been more or less just the hospital for us – we have been with our daughter the whole time but we are very grateful. The doctors and nurses are fantastic and we want to thank them.”