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Curve model Sophie Hughes shows off 18cm scar after donating her liver to her nephew

A Sydney-based model has revealed how she flew 17,000km to the UK to donate part of her liver to her newborn nephew after he was born with a rare condition, only for it to change her career and body forever.

Sophie Hughes, now 31, had been living in the Harbour City for nine years when her nephew Oscar was born with a rare condition called Biliary Atresia which causes the bile ducts outside and inside the liver to become scarred and blocked.

Her brother Ant, 37, told her about his son’s condition in an email in May 2016,and knowing the newborn needed a liver donation, Sophie flew back to her native UK and discovered she was a match for the little one.

Speaking exclusively to FEMAIL, Sophie revealed how she was left with a 18cm scar on her stomach, and quickly gained weight, going from a size six to a size 14

Sophie said the operation changed her body, and her career, forever

Speaking exclusively to FEMAIL, Sophie revealed how she was left with a 18cm scar on her stomach, and quickly gained weight, going from a size 6 (left) to a size 14 (right)

A Sydney-based model has revealed how she flew 17,000km to the UK to donate part of her liver to her newborn nephew after he was born with a rare condition - only for it to change her career forever

A Sydney-based model has revealed how she flew 17,000km to the UK to donate part of her liver to her newborn nephew after he was born with a rare condition – only for it to change her career forever

Her brother Ant, 37, had told her about his son's condition in an email and knowing the newborn needed a liver donation, Sophie flew back to her native UK and discovered she was a match for the little one. Sophie is pictured in 2016 with her nephew

Her brother Ant, 37, had told her about his son’s condition in an email and knowing the newborn needed a liver donation, Sophie flew back to her native UK and discovered she was a match for the little one. Sophie is pictured in 2016 with her nephew

With little Oscar getting sicker and sicker by the day, Sophie decided to donate part of her liver to save her nephew’s life. 

But as a result of the gruelling eight-hour operation, her body changed forever.

Speaking exclusively to FEMAIL, Sophie revealed how she was left with a 18cm scar on her stomach, and quickly gained weight, going from a size 6 to a size 14.

This left her believing she’d never model again as she was ‘terrified’ to show off her scar in public.

However, five years on she’s now a successful curve model and proudly shows off her scar, often posing in lingerie and bikinis to the delight of her thousands of Instagram followers. 

‘The response to my curve modelling and scar has been amazing, I have women comment [on my Instagram] saying “she looks like me!,” she told FEMAIL. 

With little Oscar getting sicker and sicker by the day, Sophie decided to donate part of her liver to save her nephew's life. Oscar is pictured in hospital

With little Oscar getting sicker and sicker by the day, Sophie decided to donate part of her liver to save her nephew’s life. Oscar is pictured in hospital 

Five years, Sophie is a successful curve model and proudly shows off her scar, often posing lingerie and bikinis to her thousands of Instagram followers. Little Oscar (pictured, together), now six, is doing 'really well'

Five years, Sophie is a successful curve model and proudly shows off her scar, often posing lingerie and bikinis to her thousands of Instagram followers. Little Oscar (pictured, together), now six, is doing ‘really well’

‘And they message me telling me how much more confident they feel in their bodies as a result of me sharing mine. 

‘I also have lots of young women who have similar scars reach out and thank me for sharing my story, so it’s a beautiful positive community’.

Sophie, who is originally from Manchester, started modelling aged 15, after being scouted on the streets of London.

A few years later, she went backpacking around the world aged 21, when she met her now ex-partner in a bar and moved in with him a few weeks later.

She kept her career going in Australia by continuing to model, but four years after she first arrived she had a devastating email from her brother telling her about his son’s rare condition.

Sophie Hughes, 31, had been living in the Harbour City for nine years, when in May 2016, her nephew Oscar was born with a rare condition called Biliary Atresia which causes the bile ducts outside and inside the liver to become scarred and blocked

Sophie Hughes, 31, had been living in the Harbour City for nine years, when in May 2016, her nephew Oscar was born with a rare condition called Biliary Atresia which causes the bile ducts outside and inside the liver to become scarred and blocked

Speaking exclusively to FEMAIL, Sophie revealed how she was left with a 18cm scar on her stomach, and quickly gained weight, going from a size 6 to a size 14 (pictured)

Speaking exclusively to FEMAIL, Sophie revealed how she was left with a 18cm scar on her stomach, and quickly gained weight, going from a size 6 to a size 14 (pictured)

Sophie, who is originally from Manchester in the UK, started modelling aged 15, after being scouted on the streets of London

Sophie, who is originally from Manchester in the UK, started modelling aged 15, after being scouted on the streets of London

Aged 21, Sophie went backpacking around the world, when she met her now ex-partner in a bar and moved in with him a few weeks later

Aged 21, Sophie went backpacking around the world, when she met her now ex-partner in a bar and moved in with him a few weeks later

Sophie, pictured, kept her career going in Australia by continuing to model, but four years after she first arrived she had a devastating email from her brother telling her about his son's rare condition.

Sophie, pictured, kept her career going in Australia by continuing to model, but four years after she first arrived she had a devastating email from her brother telling her about his son’s rare condition.

Biliary atresia affects about one out in every 18,000 infants.

It happens when the liver does not form properly and the bile ducts – vital for liver health and digestion – become blocked. 

 

What is Biliary atresia? 

Biliary atresia is a disease of the bile ducts that only occurs in infants.

Bile is a digestive liquid that is made in the liver and travels through the bile ducts to the small intestine, where it helps digest fats.

The disease causes the bile ducts to become inflamed and blocked causing the liquid to remain in the liver and destroy the organ.

Only one out of every 18,000 infants is diagnosed with the disease and it is unknown what causes it.

The cause of biliary atresia is unknown. 

Research is being carried out but it hasn’t provided any definite answers yet and there is no evidence to suggest that biliary atresia is hereditary.

If a child is diagnosed with biliary atresia, they will require surgery. 

This will involve carrying out an investigation called an operative cholangiogram under a general anaesthetic to confirm the diagnosis. 

If biliary atresia is confirmed then this will be followed by a “Kasai procedure”, usually done under the same general anaesthetic at the same time. 

The aim of the operation is to help bile drain from the liver into the gut.

Kasai procedure which involves removing the blocked bile ducts and gallbladder and replacing them with a segment of the child’s small intestine. 

This segment of intestine is sewn to the liver and functions as a new extrahepatic bile duct system.

If this isn’t successful then the infant will need a liver transplant.

The disease causes the bile ducts to become inflamed and blocked causing the liquid to remain in the liver and destroy the organ.

At six weeks old, Oscar had a Kasai procedure which involves removing the blocked bile ducts and gallbladder and replacing them with a segment of the child’s small intestine. This segment of intestine is sewn to the liver and functions as a new extrahepatic bile duct system.

However, the procedure didn’t work – meaning that Oscar desperately needed a liver donation.

At first, the family hoped they could get the donation from a dead donor, and turned down Sophie’s offer to return to the UK. 

But as Oscar’s condition worsened, they needed an urgent match from a family member and  Sophie got on the next flight to London.

‘I flew back to the UK and underwent extensive testing, MRI, cat scan, mental health, pap smear, you name it they tested every inch of me to make sure I was a match and also healthy and stable enough to donate,’ she explained.

‘Because I had flown back from Australia they rushed me through testing and within a couple of weeks we got the call to say I was a match. 

‘Oscar was getting sicker every day and we came close to losing him when he suffered a major blood clot, so we knew it was time and we underwent our surgeries in Leeds’.

Sophie then spent four months in the UK recovering before she was fit to fly home to Sydney. 

‘The surgery was eight hours long and I can’t even explain how difficult recovery was.

‘It was worth it every single minute but it was incredibly taxing and very emotional. 

‘The first month especially I was averaging 18 hours of sleep a day whilst my liver grew back, incredible really!

‘The flight back to Australia was hell, I couldn’t sit down so I ended up standing for most of the 24-hour flight, I was completely exhausted but determined to get home to Sydney.

While recovering, Sophie took a break from modelling as her body was ‘changing rapidly’.

‘I gained a lot of weight in a short space, I’d never struggled with weight gain before so that was tough. I levelled out at a size 14’.

Initially, she was worried about retuning to modelling.

At first, the family hoped they could get the donation from a dead donor, and turned down Sophie's offer to return to the UK. But as Oscar's condition worsened, they needed an urgent match from a family member and Sophie got on the next flight to London

At first, the family hoped they could get the donation from a dead donor, and turned down Sophie’s offer to return to the UK. But as Oscar’s condition worsened, they needed an urgent match from a family member and Sophie got on the next flight to London

Sophie then spent four months in the UK recovering before she was fit to fly home to Sydney

Sophie then spent four months in the UK recovering before she was fit to fly home to Sydney

‘I was terrified of showing my scar in public, it was quite a deep red and very obvious,’ Sophie said.

‘To start with and it was a constant source of conversation, so I would hide in a one-piece because I wasn’t ready to acknowledge what I’d done and I couldn’t handle people calling me a hero or telling me I was amazing whilst I was still busy processing the gravity of what I’d been through. 

‘I’ve now been curve modelling for a few years and my career is really taking off over in the UK, I also do lots of social media content creation for brands who want to be representative.   

‘Any negative commentary would be filtered out by my agents and I’m simply not booked, the clients who book me are so positive and love my scar, love the representation and diversity it brings! 

‘Having a social media presence is also a big part of having a successful modelling career now, so clients will stalk my socials before booking, read about my story and feel connected to it before we work together, which is really special.

Sophie said: ''I was terrified of showing my scar in public, it was quite a deep red and very obvious,' but she now proudly shows it off

Sophie said: ”I was terrified of showing my scar in public, it was quite a deep red and very obvious,’ but she now proudly shows it off

While recovering, Sophie took a break from modelling as her body was 'changing rapidly'.'I gained a lot of weight in a short space, I'd never struggled with weight gain before so that was tough. I levelled out at a size 14'.

While recovering, Sophie took a break from modelling as her body was ‘changing rapidly’.’I gained a lot of weight in a short space, I’d never struggled with weight gain before so that was tough. I levelled out at a size 14′.

Little Oscar, now six, is doing ‘really well’, Sophie adds.

‘He’s the cheekiest, happiest six-year-old and I love him to pieces. 

‘He will be on anti-rejection meds forever and it’s going to be a bumpy road no doubt but he’s really healthy and we’re all so proud of him.

Sophie is also back to normal with no ‘life-altering’ differences to her pre-op self.

‘I can’t plank! I can’t wear anything that digs into my scar and I definitely can’t drink like I used to, but I’m also not 21 anymore so I think that may be age.

‘Other than that I’m really healthy and have no major impacts, I’ve been very lucky,’ she says.

Sophie is also back to normal with no 'life-altering' differences to her pre-op self. 'I can't plank! I can't wear anything that digs into my scar and I definitely can't drink like I used to, but I'm also not 21 anymore so I think that may be age.'

Sophie is also back to normal with no ‘life-altering’ differences to her pre-op self. ‘I can’t plank! I can’t wear anything that digs into my scar and I definitely can’t drink like I used to, but I’m also not 21 anymore so I think that may be age.’

Sophie says: ''My goal is for us to get to a space where it's no longer shocking to see diversity in campaigns, it's no longer a big deal, it's no longer considered brave for me to show my scar, it's just normal.'

Sophie says: ”My goal is for us to get to a space where it’s no longer shocking to see diversity in campaigns, it’s no longer a big deal, it’s no longer considered brave for me to show my scar, it’s just normal.’

She’s also ‘very proud’ to represent a different kind of model and hopes to get to a point where there are more people like her in the industry.  

‘I think it’s incredibly important [to see diversity in modelling], that representation is everything, whether it’s race, gender, or body inclusivity, we have a long way to go but we are making a hell of a start,’  

‘My goal is for us to get to a space where it’s no longer shocking to see diversity in campaigns, it’s no longer a big deal, it’s no longer considered brave for me to show my scar, it’s just normal. 

‘And I’ll keep shouting about it from the rooftops until we do’. 

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