At 5 months old Lisa Brown had a liver transplant - but that hasn't slowed her down.

Now she is 8 years old and heading to Malaga, Spain, to compete in the World Transplant Games as New Zealand's youngest competitor.

Watching the Olympics last year, Lisa told her parents she wanted to be an Olympian one day. So when they heard about the World Transplant Games, they decided to get her involved.

The Hikurangi School student is aiming to compete in the 25m freestyle, 50m sprint, ball throw and long jump at the event, which kicks off on June 25. And is confident she will win gold in the sprint.


Lisa is the only junior going to represent the country but 11 adults from New Zealand will also be among the 2000-plus competitors from more than 50 countries.

Lisa told the Herald she had been training hard for the sprint by running at the beach and at home on the farm every day.

Lisa Brown is off to the World Transplant Games in Spain. Photo/Michael Cunningham
Lisa Brown is off to the World Transplant Games in Spain. Photo/Michael Cunningham

Mother Heidi Bosniakowski said the trouble with Lisa's liver started when she was born.

Bosniakowski and her husband, Justin Brown, noticed bruises appearing on Lisa's arms the day after her birth. When Lisa got a bruise on her spine their midwife sent them to the doctor for blood tests.

The test showed her liver wasn't functioning properly.

Over the following months her liver continued to deteriorate but doctors were unable to find the cause.

Eventually the couple decided to seek treatment in Germany, Bosniakowski's home country.

Doctors in Germany told them Lisa's liver was "history" and she needed a transplant urgently.

Within three weeks, a piece of her father's liver was removed and transplanted into the 5-month-old.

Bosniakowski said both the diagnosis and the surgery were difficult times for the family.

"It was a pretty rough start. I'll always remember when I had to hand her over to the surgeons - just the wait, it was so long, and Justin was in at the same time."

Even now Bosniakowski worried at times.

"She's doing really well but there's still the uncertainty. We don't know what caused the liver failure so it's all at the back of your mind."

But the shaky start has not held Lisa back.

"She just gives everything a go," Bosniakowski said.

For the younger competitors, the games were more about showing transplant survivors they could do anything they put their minds to and meet other children who had been through a similar thing, Bosniakowski said.

New Zealand Transplant Games Association team manager Sheryl Power agreed the games were a wonderful way to raise organ donor awareness and show, through sport, the difference a transplant could make to a person's well-being.

A Givealittle page has been set up to help cover the cost of the trip.