Matisse Reid's eyes sparkle with delight as she stands beneath a towering Christmas tree laden with decorations.

It's hard to believe this is the same girl who just three years ago underwent a stomach, duodenum, pancreas, small and large bowel transplant.

Parents Jodee and Wayne, brothers Fraanz, Kalani and sister Rachel moved from Napier to Pittsburgh, US, in 2007 to await the life-saving operation for a rare intestinal condition, which meant she was unable to digest food.

Almost a year after the family returned home to Hawke's Bay, Christmas Day marked their first New Zealand Christmas in seven years and also Matisse's 13th birthday.


"Last year I was in rejection on my birthday. The year before I just had my transplant. This time I have said, 'I am not going to go into rejection, no way!"' Matisse said.

There are two trees in the Reid household, one a lush green the other coated in white - a gift from friends before they left Pittsburgh, as a reminder of a white Christmas.

Before the treatment Matisse lived in pain and was fed through a tube. Today she can eat almost anything and loves to cook, although mum Jodee says her taste is fairly gourmet.

"At the moment she's really into crayfish, she still writes a column for Cooking Light Magazine so she does meal-type stuff for that. Seafood is her favourite. She likes shrimp, squid, fish."

However, the kitchen has taken a back seat to activities she was previously unable to do, such as touch rugby and dance.

Matisse's grin is infectious, and voice light as air as she talks about the future and reflects on the past.

"I went to the Justin Bieber concert in November which was really fun, and One Direction. I went to Taylor Swift twice in America but the first time I fell asleep and the second time my sister had to keep me awake, that was before, when I was really sick."

This year had been a huge adjustment, but for the first time in Matisse's life she was able to do normal, everyday things, with minimal intrusion from doctor's visits and hospital trips.

"Apart from rejection earlier in the year and a bit of pain and a scare in the middle of the year she's been well.

"It took some time to settle in at school but now she is able to hang out with friends, go swimming, participate with friends and at school," Jodee says.

Another highlight was getting a dog as a "welcome home" gift.

"His name's Brick, it was always a promise to my children that we would get a dog when we lived in New Zealand. They love it and me even more so.

"We wanted a smaller breed so it could be inside, but we didn't want one of those little yappy ones."

When a new term rolls around, Matisse will complete Year 8 at Napier Intermediate instead of moving on to secondary school.

"Because of the American system and the amount of time she had off, she will go back, which is less upheaval, they have also been fantastic so it's a good thing," her mum says.

She had already come a long way in 12 months and was making progress with a teacher she liked.

"It helps when you have a good teacher, because then you want to go to school," Matisse said.

"I have gone up three and a half reading years which is huge for me, considering I wasn't at school two or three days a week in America."

There have been a lot of "firsts" for the entire family and plenty to get their heads around but there was no place like home.