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Deaths of Riley Baker and Brittany Arthur spark calls for more organ donations 

Grieving families urge others to give life


16 August 2016

The deaths of Riley Baker and Brittany Arthur have sparked calls for more organ donations.

The deaths of two young South Islanders who donated their organs, saving up to 17 lives, has prompted calls from their families and clinicians for more people to "give life".

Riley Baker, 26, and Brittany Arthur, 20, died in Dunedin Hospital after a road accident and meningitis respectively. Both donated their organs to others.

In New Zealand last year, just 53 people donated organs and there were 233 transplants, including liver, heart, lungs and kidneys.

Riley Baker and his partner, Amy McCarthy, of Dunedin.


Riley Baker and his partner, Amy McCarthy, of Dunedin.

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Baker's partner, Amy McCarthy, said matches had been found for all of his donated organs. 

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Baker died two days after a car hit his motorcycle on between Palmerston and Moeraki, about 4.30pm on Saturday.

'`He told me that if his organs were in a state to give to someone else, it was the right thing to do," McCarthy said. 

"Now there is a little bit of him in seven different people, if all the transfusions go well."

Twenty-year-old Brittany Arthur died at Dunedin Hospital on Saturday.


Twenty-year-old Brittany Arthur died at Dunedin Hospital on Saturday.

McCarthy said she understood why some people could not donate organs because of religious beliefs, but "it was not like he was going to use them".

"He just loved other people, and if that meant helping other people by donating his organs then that was his decision." 

Arthur, ?a nursing student from Christchurch, died in Dunedin Hospital on Saturday. 

The former St Margaret's College student's organs were donated, her mother Jose Arthur said.

Jose Arthur said Brittany felt fine last Wednesday. On Thursday night she had a headache; she got out of bed before midnight and collapsed.

Brittany was taken to hospital, but never regained consciousness.

Jose Arthur warned people to be aware of the meningitis symptoms, which include aching joints, headache, stiff neck, drowsiness and vomiting. 

"She meant everything to us," she said. 

"Words just can't explain how sad we are … she just always wanted to please and she was the best daughter anyone could ever want.

"Even after her death she donated all her organs for the benefit of other people, that was her, she had a great love for God and just loved people," she said.

When New Zealanders get a driver's licence they can tick a box indicating whether they wish to donate organs.

Andy Tookey, of Give Life, which campaigns for more organ donation, said it was vital people spoke to their families about donating.

"If you have just been told your son has been killed in a road accident and then five minutes later you are asked to donate his organs then of course the knee-jerk, instinctual response is to say no.

"If you have already had a conversation with that person about what they want then it takes the pressure of the family in a very difficult time."

Tookey said New Zealand's rates of organ donation were unimpressive.

"Out of roughly 160 people who could have donated their organs last year only 53 did. Six out of 10 families still say no.

"When your dead you can only do three things with your organs. Bury them, cremate them, or donate them.

"You could save up to 10 people's lives. Why would you waste them?"

Organ Donation clinical director James Judson said New Zealand had relatively low rates of organ donation compared to Australia and the United Kingdom.

The opportunity for organ donation was rare, so it was vital potential donors were identified.

"More than 30,000 people die in New Zealand every year. Only a tiny fraction of those deaths can result in organ donation.

"The person has to be in an intensive care unit (ICU), on a ventilator, and some kind of devastating brain damage has to have taken place.

"We work very closely with the ICU to ensure they are recognising potential donors and are acting on that.

"At the end of the day though all we can do is create the opportunity. It is the family who have to make the decision.

"The generosity of the families that do decide to donate their loved one's organs is overwhelming. "

McCarthy said Baker's family were dealing with his death as best as they could.

Baker worked as a service technician and was passionate about photography, covering weddings, events, sports, landscapes and news, including the Six60 balcony collapse in March.

Jose Arthur said her daughter was "very positive and life-loving".

"She was an amazing flatmate and friend down there, she had a boyfriend and she was just very happy down there."

Her boyfriend, Taylor Manning, was "heartbroken".

St Margaret's College principal Gillian Simpson said Brittany Arthur's death had "touched" students past and present.

"She had so much to give, it's incredibly sad. She had just graduated from nursing and was passionate about helping others and making a difference in other people's lives."

Chinese national Limin Ma, 41, has been charged with careless or inconsiderate vehicle operation causing injury in relation to Baker's death.


- The symptoms of viral and bacterial meningitis can be similar in the beginning. Bacterial meningitis symptoms are usually more severe. 

- Symptoms differ between adults and infants. 

- Joint pain, vomiting, fever, and a stiff neck are common. Infants may refuse food, have a blotchy complexion and a high-pitched cry. 

- In some cases meningitis can lead to a permanent disability such as deafness, limb amputation or brain damage. 

- Bacterial meningitis is caused through close personal contact, such as coughing, sneezing and kissing.  

- Anyone presenting with similar symptoms is advised to seek medical help immediately.

- Viral meningitis is less severe than other types. It is most common in young children and in people under 40. 

 - Stuff

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