Words of hope have lifted the spirits of a teen waiting for a liver transplant.

Among those to offer support to Imogen Constantine, after the Torbay 14-year-old last week told the Herald on Sunday her story of life on the organ transplant waiting list, is United States-based Kiwi academic Annette Kendall.

The PhD student, who will next month celebrate the 23rd anniversary of her liver transplant, told the Herald on Sunday reading Imogen's story was like reading her own.

"It was like living the life I had 28 years ago. I felt like I was right back there. Her attitude, the things she was saying, I was just like that. I was always fighting to be let to go to school. I had an after school job delivering milk, running around.

Advertisement

"I just kept pushing myself. I just wanted to be normal."

Kendall became ill at 10, although her ailment was not diagnosed as auto-immune hepatitis - the same condition that has caused Imogen's liver to fail - until after her liver was removed.

She was told she was not likely to reach 20 without a transplant, and might get another 10 years with one. "I always lived with the thought: 'You've only got 10 years'."

But life happened anyway. After marrying at 22 Kendall became pregnant at 25. She was expected to miscarry, but her son Cameron is now a healthy 16-year-old.

However, the ticking clock meant Kendall decided not to go to university and fell into a series of jobs.

Annette Kendall with her husband Brendan and son Cameron, 16. Photo / Supplied
Annette Kendall with her husband Brendan and son Cameron, 16. Photo / Supplied

It wasn't until she was around 30, and past her bout of transplant rejection, that doctors said she "could live to be an old person", Kendall said.

She studied towards an MBA at Massey University and last year was chosen to study towards her doctorate in agricultural and applied economics at the University of Missouri in the US city of Columbia.

"I would never change a thing [in my life], because I know how precious life is."

Imogen's mother, Alexandra, who is going through tests to find out if she can be a living donor for her daughter, told the Herald on Sunday Kendall was among many to contact the family in support after Imogen's story was published.

Among them was a man who offered to be a living donor, but the family remained hopeful Imogen would receive either a new liver from a deceased donor, or a partial liver donation from her mother.

Living donors must be related or have a close bond with the recipient.

"It's really nice to have people understand the seriousness, because we do tend to play it down. We've got to allow people to support us."