Liver recipient marks 30 years since transplant

When Tracy Holmes was diagnosed with alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency liver disease, doctors told her parents she would not live much past her second birthday.

She was only 15 months old, and it was the 1970s, a time when liver transplants were not done in New Zealand.

“My parents were only given one sheet of paper with information about the disease, so they didn’t really know what was going to happen.”

Amazingly, she lived past her second, third and fourth birthdays, but as the years went on, she got sicker and sicker.She was 10 years old when doctors said she had to have a liver transplant or she would die.

“They had only just started doing them on children in the United Kingdom, so it was still very ground-breaking, pioneering days of liver transplants on children.”

Miss Holmes (41) said it was a frightening time for her.

News of her plight spread from her home town of Otautau, right across Southland and Otago, and residents raised enough money for her to travel to the United Kingdom for a liver transplant.

She received it in Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, England, in 1986, when she was just 10, effectively making her New Zealand’s first liver transplant recipient.

But just three weeks after her return to New Zealand, her body began to reject it.