Lauren White, 36, from Seacliff Park, SA, shares her story with Take 5:
My son, Ollie, seven, came home from school looking exhausted.
“I don’t feel well,” he said.
It was early March 2019, and Ollie was the most active and energetic kid.
Always on the go with his little sister, Clare, four, he loved riding his scooter and was an avid surfer, catching waves with his dad, Henry, 40, most weekends.
But Ollie didn’t perk up in the weeks that followed.
He lost his appetite, was lethargic, had a tummy ache and his eyes were tinged yellow.
“I’m going to take him to the local GP just to be safe,” I said to Henry.
From there, Ollie was referred to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital for blood tests.
They delivered some startling news.
“Ollie has acute liver failure,” the specialist said.
My legs buckled.
“There must be some mistake,” I uttered, distraught.
But there was no denying the tragic truth – suddenly our lives had been turned upside down as we struggled to believe our boy’s life was now hanging in the balance with a liver transplant the only option to save him.
We were transferred to Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, which specialises in paediatric transplants.
Ollie was catapulted to the top of the transplant list.
He’d deteriorated so quickly, with only 24 hours before his liver packed up completely.
By now Ollie was so sick he wasn’t really with it.
Miraculously, the next day a donor liver became available.
“You’re going to get a new liver to make you better,” I whispered as he was wheeled into theatre.
After the gruelling 10-hour transplant operation, Ollie’s surgery was a success.
While we crumpled with relief, Ollie had a long road to recovery ahead.
The hospital became our world for the next two months as Ollie fought his way back to health.
Finally, doctors said he could come home and as festive season crept closer, I was contacted by Make a Wish Foundation offering to grant a wish for Ollie after all he’d been through.
It was just what he needed.
“I’d love to surf with Mick Fanning,” he said.
Champion surfer Mick was Ollie’s hero and the Make a Wish team got to work.
Six weeks before Christmas I received a call.
“Mick would love to surf with Ollie,” their rep said.
Mick had even recorded a video message for Ollie saying how much he was looking forward to meeting him.
With Christmas around the corner, I decided to keep it a surprise and play Mick’s message to Ollie on Christmas Day.
Then on December 25, 2020, after we’d had dinner and opened all our pressies, I made an announcement.
“Ollie, I have one more present for you,” I said, plugging the USB into the TV.
Eyes widened and jaws dropped when Mick popped up on the screen and Ollie squealed with delight as he listened to the message.
“This is the best Christmas present ever!” he cried.
In June this year Make a Wish flew us all to Queensland and as we made our way to Green Mount Beach, Coolangatta, Ollie was a bag of nerves.
Finally arriving at the beach, we hopped out and saw Mick standing on the sand looking out at the ocean.
“Hey Ollie,” Mick said beaming from ear to ear. “Let’s catch some waves.”
For over an hour Mick made sure other surfers gave way to Ollie as he pushed him on to wave after wave.
“That was awesome,” Ollie said to Mick afterwards.
As we were about to say goodbye, Mick had other plans.
“Fancy getting something to eat?” he said.
Gobbling down pancakes and laughing and joking, we were cherishing every second, then Mick said he had one last surprise.
In the surf shop he owned nearby, he treated Ollie and Clare to a wetsuit and anything else they wanted in the store.
The kids hugged him tight, not wanting to let him go.
Ollie is 10 now and doing well.
Mick’s sprinkling of Christmas magic was Ollie’s all-time best present.
But for me, seeing my son smiling, happy and healthy, is the ultimate Christmas gift – I couldn’t ask for more.