Donating your organs or bone marrow after death can sometimes be a daunting choice. Although, without the brave choice of an anonymous donor, little Lorraine-Richie wouldn’t be here today.
Born full term and healthy at nine pounds, Lorraine-Richie was a perfect little baby, if not a little pale. However, after a few days her parents realised she was more jaundiced than they felt she should be. Although her blood tests came back clear and her parents were encouraged to let her sit in the sun a little more, there was something very wrong with her. She couldn’t hold down feeds and would vomit, not just the usual spilling that all little babies do, projectile vomiting. Her parents took her to their GP thinking it was a tummy bug going around. They were sent to Middlemore for more tests when the GP couldn’t find anything wrong and the jaundice and vomiting continued. Put under a phototherapy lamp and enduring more tests, Lorraine-Richie continued to deteriorate. Her mum went to bed one night and the next morning found her baby daughter had tubes and wires placed by nurses the next morning – a jarring and frightening sight.
The family was then sent to Starship as Lorraine-Richie continued to get worse. There the little girl underwent a liver and bone marrow biopsy. In recovery her mother noticed that her little daughter wasn’t breathing right. The cause was internal bleeding, an unfortunate consequence of the biopsies.
Lorraine-Richie’s family were informed that she needed a liver transplant, however, she was too sick to be put onto the transplant list to wait for a donor.
Her mother, Phoenicia, says that she trusted her mother’s instincts and they were telling her that Lorraine-Richie would be alright. Although the rest of the family seemed to be losing hope, Phoenicia kept reminding herself that, “…she’s still breathing, she’s still here”.
The next day, after a night of prayer and watching over the little girl, the family were relieved to be told that her stats were back up and she was pout onto the transplant list right away.
Some weeks later, the family were informed that a liver donor had been found. Phoenicia was still not sure if she should agree to the transplant. Pulled in two different directions – her faith and what the doctors said was best for their daughter – the parents discussed what they should do next. Lorraine-Richie’s father, Tamati, found the passage in Genesis where Eve is made form Adam’s rib, essentially a transplant. Their choice made, the parents agreed to the transplant.
Their transplant specialist, John Bishop was the one to operate and Phoenicia remembers that the scariest thing was sending her daughter into surgery. The little girl had been fighting so hard and to let go of her was one of the hardest things she had ever had to do. However, she listened to her instincts and felt that they were making the right choice for Lorraine-Richie.
At 18 days old, Lorraine-Richie became the youngest kiwi to ever have a liver transplant. Although, she will have to deal with having Hepatitis b because of the liver that was donated. When she was out of surgery, she looked puffy and sick but so much better than before the transplant. Phoenicia felt she could relax the moment she saw her daughter. At two weeks post-surgery, Lorraine-Richie is so alert and looks so much better. As of this week she has started breastfeeding again and is doing amazingly well. A lot has happened to this little girl in such a short time and there is more news every day for her family to take in and process.
There are still no answers as to why Lorraine-Richie’s liver shut down. The cause is unknown but may be attributed to a rare liver disorder that is virtually unheard of where the liver’s cells don’t rejuvenate. To help in finding the cause, and to try and help others who may be diagnose with the same disorder, Lorraine-Richie’s family have donated part of her liver to medical research. Genetics have been ruled out but her family still have no answers.
Now, all Lorraine-Richie’s family want for her is to have a bright future. They want her to see her scars not as things to be hidden, but as badges of honor for all that she’s gone through and survived. Her mother hopes she won’t be insecure about them because she sees them and is so proud of her daughter and what she has overcome. “I hope she doesn’t dwell on them, that she looks after herself. We are so grateful that she is here today.” Her family also hope that Lorraine-Richie’s story helps inspire Maori to donate because it is a good thing and helps save lives.
This little girl has been through so much in such a short amount of time and at only a few months old has become an inspiration to many through her strength and her will to survive.