Gift of life sees Bay teen hit sporting high

By Elaine Fisher

For seven months Carol and David Hodge of Pikowai didn't know from one day to the next if their baby daughter Katie would survive.
Then, 10 days after her first birthday, Katie received a gift from compassionate strangers, in the form of a small sliver of liver.
"Katie was a very sick little girl and she and I had spent seven months in an Australian hospital, waiting for a suitable donor," said Carol.
Fifteen years on it is impossible to put into words what the transplant operation and the gift from the donor means to Katie, her mum and dad and big brother Tony, but Carol is confident without it Katie would not be alive.
Not only is she alive, she's well and extremely fit - so fit she will represent New Zealand in four different sports at the World Transplant Games in Brisbane from August 22.
"The liver which Katie benefited from was shared with a 50-year-old man so the donor family and the donor made a significant difference to at least two lives," Carol said.
David and Carol did not suspect anything was wrong with Katie, except that the jaundice she developed, as many babies do, failed to go away.
"We had an excellent Plunket nurse, Sue Mathews, who became concerned about Katie and we discovered she suffered from biliary atresia, a condition where bile accumulates in the liver."
Surgery to open the bile ducts was not successful and, because the transplant operation was not then available in this country, Carol and Katie flew to Australia in the hope of finding a suitable donor.
That meant leaving behind David and son Tony who was just three.

"David stayed to run the farm and look after our little boy, as we had no idea how long Katie and I would be away. It was a very hard seven months," Carol said.
"The team at the hospital were fantastic and even when we returned home they continued to be our lifeline, helping with advice and guidance, but after the surgery, Katie really didn't look back."
David and Carol, keen sports people, encouraged Katie to be active, fit and make the most of growing up on the family farm.
"My only fear was of her horse riding and taking a fall but in the end her sporting interested was in a different direction."
Katie loved to dance and learned tap, jazz and ballet with the Suzanne Hanger School of Dance from age 6 to 11, before giving dancing away to put more time into tennis. Katie attended Otamarakau Primary School and then Waikato Diocesan School in Hamilton.
Even before she reached her teens Katie was a top sports person. She represented the Te Puke Tennis Club and Western Bay of Plenty Tennis and was under-10 girls WBOP champ. Last year Katie switched codes to play squash for the Te Puke Squash Club. She represented Te Puke F Grade women at the nationals in Dunedin and was undefeated as their No 1 player.
At Dio she played a number of sports at a representative level, including tennis and was the school's junior tennis champ and a member of the squash and junior A water polo teams. Katie also represented the college in in senior A cricket team.
Her love of netball started at 7 but 2009 is the first year she has not played the sport because Katie, now 16, is taking part in the Mount Hutt College Outdoor Pursuits Programme.
In the World Transplant Games in Brisbane, Katie will represent New Zealand in squash, tennis, swimming, athletics and in the women's swimming relay team.
Team members largely fund themselves to the games and Katie has been fortunate to be one of the juniors to receive sponsorship from Transplant Australia, which is hosting the games.
"I understand the games are very competitive so Katie will be up against some tough competition. One of the main aims of the games is to highlight the quality of life people can enjoy thanks to transplant surgery, and to encourage people to become donors," Carol said.
Carol, David, Tony and Katie will forever be grateful to the donor's family who, at a hard time in their lives, were able to think of others and make a priceless gift to a baby girl.
* For more information about the games go to www.worldtransplantgames09.com
 

- Bay of Plenty Times

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