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'Little miracle' baby NZ's youngest to receive liver transplant

Newshub logoNewshub 13/03/2018 Lucy Warhurst
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A four-week-old baby has become the youngest person in New Zealand to ever receive a liver transplant.

Doctors worried she may be too small, but it was her only hope of survival - now, she's being called a miracle.

Born on Christmas Eve, little Pipiwharauroa Wallis is certainly a special gift.

She was healthy at first - other than what appeared to be a touch of jaundice. Then, after two weeks, her mum Ashley Steedman Prip noticed a worrying change.

"She went for a sleep and when she woke up her eyes were completely yellow," she said.

The newborn was rushed to hospital where tests revealed her liver wasn't working.

"They diagnosed her with acute liver failure," say Ms Steedman Prip through tears, "and that we would only have two days with her."

When Pipiwharauroa first arrived at hospital she was very sick. Starship is used to dealing with sick babies, but they'd never carried out a liver transplant on someone so young and so small.

"The problem is finding a piece of liver small enough to fit inside the baby who was literally a newborn," says Starship paediatric hepatologist Helen Evans.

"The options are very limited, so we would either be looking to have a deceased donor - and there's often not enough time in that situation - or a small piece of liver from a living donor."

Pipiwharauroa Wallis is the youngest person in New Zealand to receive a liver transplant. © Newshub. Pipiwharauroa Wallis is the youngest person in New Zealand to receive a liver transplant. Her aunty, Mina Steedman Prip, donated part of her liver after finding she was a match.

"I had no idea," says the baby's mother. "I found out my sister had gone behind my back and called the surgeons to see if she could qualify and what it involves."

Seven weeks on, Pipiwharauroa's doing well.

"We couldn't be more proud of her - she's such a little superstar. She's definitely a little miracle."

She'll need to spend a few more weeks in Ronald McDonald House, and will need medication for the rest of her life.

However doctors say her prognosis is good, and the family can look forward to many happy years ahead.

If you wish to donate to help cover the cost of Pipiwharauroa's liver transplant, you can do so here.

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