Dominic Joseph-Kura has been one of KIDS Foundation’s patient members since he was very young. He was brought over from Rarotonga at three months old with his grandmother Tangi Ruvea for a liver transplant. Plagued with jaundice and fevers he was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia. After so much worry and Dominic’s illness progressing, the Joseph-Kura family were given the news that a liver was available, and Dominic would have a second chance at life. The operation was a success and despite some ups and downs, Dominic rallied, growing, learning and thriving. The transplant saved his life and his mum and dad moved their lives here where Dominic had the best care possible. It was thanks to an amazing family that Dominic had another chance at life. His donor and donor’s family gave up so much but were heroes for Dominic, giving him such an amazing gift. Dominic’s donor will always be a part of him and will have the appreciation and thanks of the Joseph-Kura family forever.
Then, three years on, Dominic became ill once again. Dominic was returned from Rarotonga by his grandfather and uncle where he had been visiting family in mid-March this year, when they noticed that his skin and the whites of his eyes were becoming yellow once more – jaundiced, a sign of sever problems. Something was terribly wrong with their little boy. They were sent to Starship where they had to stay overnight while testing was done on Dominic to find the exact cause of his jaundice. Bloods were taken, and his heart and kidneys tested. A liver biopsy was also ordered. The next day Dominic’s family were given the heartbreaking news – Dominic had chronic rejection and damaged bile ducts; his body was rejecting the donated liver which had kept him alive and healthy for so long.
This diagnosis was not something the family wanted for their little boy as it meant that he would have to endure another transplant. Everything seemed to revert to when Dominic had first been sick with routines now revolving around medication, daily check-ups at Starship and Dominic being monitored by doctors and nurses specialized in caring for children with similar or the same problems as Dominic. Although he was discharged after he was diagnosed, a plan was started by the specialists to give him the best chance by getting him on the liver transplant waiting list. Then, another option was suggested, Dominic’s mum or dad could be tested to see if they were a match and then could donate part of their liver to Dominic if they were.
David, Dominic’s father reveals that he didn’t think about becoming a live donor at first, that was until the doctors explained that it was hard to get a donor match especially during Lockdown. Once they were told that, Dominic’s parents chose to start the testing to see if they were a match and could become live donors for their son. David didn’t want Dominic to wait because of the seriousness of Dominic’s health and so he put up his hand and started testing. If he wasn’t a match, then Moeara Dominic’s mum would be tested.
Moeara stayed at home with Dominic while David went through testing. The first stage was to find if David and Dominic had compatible blood types, after a week of waiting it was found that they did, and David moved to the next stage of testing. The next test was an x-ray and CT scan to see the size of David’s liver and if it would be suitable for donating a part to Dominic. The family received the good news within a week and David was a match to Dominic with the transplant operation then booked in after discussion with the transplant coordinator. David was happy that he was a match and could donate part of his liver to save his son’s life. He didn’t care about the risk of the operation because all he wanted was for his son to be alright.
April 23rd was the day the transplant went ahead. It was scary day for Dominic and his family. At three years old Dominic was going to undergo major surgery, David was also undergoing major surgery, and Moeara had to wait for news while two of the most important people in her life were in an operating theatre.
The family had been through a lot to get to this point. Not only did Dominic desperately need the transplant, but they were also trying to get David’s mother to New Zealand so that there would be someone at home to care for him while Moeara looked after Dominic once he was on the ward. They had the help of a social worker – Nadia – who was able to write a letter which helped smooth the way for David’s mum to get here to look after him.
As it was Level 3 when Dominic had his transplant, they weren’t allowed any visitors in the hospital. However, the family want to acknowledge the support and help they received from doctors, nurses and others at Starship.
The day of Dominic’s transplant was one fraught with worry, prayers and hoping. Moeara had to wait about twelve hours to know if her son and partner would be ok. Luckily, she was supported by her mum and calls from the family who were praying with her. David went into theatre at about 7:30am and Dominic was taken in two and a half hours later. Moeara was able to see David before he was whisked away but David wasn’t able to see Dominic before his surgery. Updates were sent through to Moeara about how David was doing as the operation progressed and she was relieved to hear he did very well.
By 4pm David was out of surgery and in recovery. Dominic, however, was still in theatre. Unfortunately, before of COVID-19 fears Moeara couldn’t see David right away as she was to become Dominic’s caregiver once he was out of surgery. At 6pm an update came through which said that Dominic’s blood pressure was fluctuating, and the decision was made to put him on medication to help settle it. At 9:48pm, Moeara was told that Dominic’s new liver was in and some tests were being run to make sure it was working with his other organs. An hour later Dominic was finally out of surgery and in PICU where his mum could visit for short periods. Moeara says that waiting for news of Dominic and David while they were in surgery was very hard and worrying.
After two days in PICU and once his breathing tube was removed and he could breathe on his own, Dominic was given a blood transfusion and extra pain relief. David was finally able to see his son which was a relief as from the moment he had awoken from his own surgery he had wanted to see Dominic. He could now focus on his own recovery, with his stay in hospital lasting a week and a half.
With medication and lots of monitoring, Dominic started to recover, even getting up and walking four days after his surgery. He was on the ward for two weeks and had to have a biopsy to check there was no rejection at one point as he started to decline again. The good news was it wasn’t being rejected by his body, but he did have an infection which was treated with antibiotics. All this was part and parcel of Dominic’s recovery. The struggle to find the right dosages of his medication was also a trying time. Thankfully, it was sorted out quickly but still causes some flare ups occasionally. Dominic also had to struggle through four days of no food by mouth as his stomach healed after his operation; he was fed intravenously.
Finally, after two weeks, David and Moeara were able to take Dominic home. With relief they were discharged, surprised that the transplant and Dominic’s recovery had gone so well and so much faster than the last time they had been through such a tough journey.
Now Dominic is thriving at home. He is like any other three-year-old and is doing amazingly. David has also recovered well and the family of three are able to enjoy their time together, safe in the knowledge that they have done everything they can to help Dominic live a healthy, happy life. Dominic watches movies, plays games, talking a lot and growing every day. Before transplant he hadn’t been eating as much so he had to be put on a feeding tube, and it was itchy and made him anxious. His liver was also in a very bad way when it was removed his parents have been told. Now he is happy and healthy.
David and Moeara want Dominic to have the best life and with David’s precious gift of another chance at living that life, Dominic now has the opportunity to grow up and be the best he can be; an opportunity that is thanks to his father’s gift, mother’s prayers, the medical knowledge of the doctors and nurses at Starship, and the support of others around the family.