Aunt gives gift of life to baby

SOPHIE SPEER
Last updated 05:00 30/04/2013
consolo
MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ

CLOSE-KNIT TRIO: Fern Wooldridge Hyett, right, donated part of her liver to her niece Dylan Consolo, who is held by Dylan's mother, Emma Wooldridge Hyett.

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Dylan Consolo received a very special gift from her aunt - part of her liver.

The 16-month-old was plagued with problems after birth because of progressive liver disease that would eventually lead to liver failure, and the family was told she would need a new liver in five to 10 years.

Her blood clotted at nine times normal speed, she had a Vitamin K deficiency, was missing bile ducts and had giant cell hepatitis, resulting in cells that would grow at an alarming rate – similar to cancer cells.

Her condition deteriorated so fast that she was put on the organ-donor list to receive a new liver at 11 months. Then 24-year-old Fern stepped up. "If something needs doing, you have to just do it," Fern says.

Within her family she was in the best position to donate, despite not being the same blood type.

But because Dylan was not a year old, she had not yet developed the antibodies that would reject the new liver, her mother, Emma Wooldridge Hyett, says.

In mid-December, Dylan received about 13 per cent of Fern's liver at Starship children's hospital and since then her health has improved, although she is more susceptible to viruses because her immune system was permanently suppressed to ensure she does not reject the liver.

Emma, 26, says it was hard to watch her baby get sicker – and her sister's offer to donate part of her liver was "huge".

"Since being in Starship we got to know other families. One girl has spent eight months waiting for a liver because she's too sick to come home. She's been through 11 possible live donors ... [and] four to five deceased donors, which they didn't end up getting.

"The fact that Fern offered ... we realised how lucky we were."

Emma says people need to be open with their family about whether they want to be an organ donor, because next-of-kin would ultimately have to make the decision.

"There's a myth it's what's on your driver's licence as to whether or not [you're a donor].

"But next-of-kin have the opportunity to decide.

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