Teen vows to donate liver to dying daughter (+photos)

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The teen mother of a baby who will die without a new liver has been told she is a blood match and has vowed to stop at nothing in the fight against the red tape stopping her becoming a live donor.

Kataraina Pewhairangi yesterday discovered her blood type is the same as her 10-month daughter Teyah's, which potentially means she could save the child's life if she was to donate part of her own liver.

But Ms Pewhairangi, who is 18, has been told an ethics ruling says that live donors must be at least 21.

Ms Pewhairangi said the rule was "stupid" and has pledged to stop at nothing to get it overturned - and will today meet with the country's top transplant team to put forward her argument.

"I'll take this to court if I have to," Ms Pewhairangi of Katikati told the Bay of Plenty Times.

"I will stop at nothing, I will go as far as I need to.

"I think it should be changed because I could join the army and go overseas and die for my country but I can't save my daughter's life."

After learning through the Bay of Plenty Times of Ms Pewhairangi's case, the New Zealand Liver Transplant Unit decided to take the case up with an ethics council in an effort to change the rules.

The rule was made as part of extensive criteria by the Northern Regional Ethics Council in 2002 when the first live transplant took place.

The age was set at 21 because it met international standards of the "majority of age" - the age which you are legally an adult. Although in New Zealand this stands at 20.

If the age is lowered, Ms Pewhairangi will be the youngest ever live organ donor in New Zealand.

Baby Teyah has a rare life-threatening condition called Biliary Atresia and will die before her third birthday if she does not have a liver transplant.

It causes ducts that take bile from the liver to the gall bladder and into the bowel to not form properly. This means the bile is unable to drain and instead accumulates in the liver.

Last month she was put on the list for an organ (she will only need part of an adult liver) but there are no guarantees whether she will get one in time. Around 1 in 6 people will die waiting for a liver in New Zealand.

Ms Pewhairangi, her mother Lisa Murray and grandmother Lillian Purukamu, took Teyah to Auckland's Starship Hospital this morning for her second operation in a month.

A tube will be put down her throat and a chemical administered which will clot her blood and stop her veins bleeding into her bowels- a sign her condition is worsening.

Ms Purukamu, who has had two other babies from her extended whanau die from the same illness (the most recent in 2006), is also outraged at the rule and vowed to do whatever she can to get it changed.

New Zealand Liver Transplant Unit surgeon and Auckland University surgeon professor, John McCall, said the transplant team had met to discuss Katraina's case after reading about it.

They plan to meet with the whanau tomorrow to discuss the issue.

Mr McCall said although the Northern Regional Ethics Committee - which comprises of 12 medical, consumer and legal members - set the initial rules it would probably not be able to now change them.

This is because the committee deals with new procedures or studies and not on-going issues.

The committee said staff had changed since 2002 and they could not comment on the decision. Mr McCall did not know who had the power to overturn the rule.

In 2002, the transplant unit put forward a submission to have the live donor age set at 20 but it was turned down.


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