Donor challenge saves Liam's life
Saturday June 10, 2006
By Helen Twose
Late last year David Redmond set himself the challenge of a lifetime. He had just days to find a donor to provide a lifesaving liver transplant for Liam Morgan, the 3-year-old son of a friend.
Although Liam was top of the list for a liver transplant in New Zealand and Australia, no suitable donors had been found after 12 days of waiting and he was close to death.
As he lay comatose in Starship hospital fighting a mystery virus that was killing his liver, Mr Redmond talked to everyone he met about being an organ donor.
"He basically went out on the street, telling everyone about Liam," said Liam's mother, Sharon Morgan.
"That was his mission, it was just amazing. He was going on to construction sites and asking people, have they thought about being a donor."
What made Mr Redmond's response even more incredible was that his wife Rose had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and after a double mastectomy was due to start her first round of chemotherapy that week.
The Redmonds visited Liam in hospital the night before Mrs Redmond received her first chemotherapy treatment and were shocked at how ill he was.
"Both Rose and I just broke down when we saw little Liam on the table, yellow and sick. Sharon and Sean were beside themselves and at that stage they thought they were going to lose little Liam that night," Mr Redmond said.
"I was talking to anyone I could that week. If we didn't get people I would have put an advert in the paper, I would have done anything."
During that time 22 people were tested as potential donors, but it was Mr Redmond's brother, Paul, who was a positive match.
"Everybody else, all the family and the other friends, seemed to be failing and I put my name down. I wasn't really expecting to be called up, to tell you the truth," said Paul Redmond.
Within days of the transplant last August, Liam was off life support and on the way to a full recovery.
Paul Redmond was back at work two months later with no lasting effects apart from the scar on his stomach. "I'm quite proud of my scar, actually," he said.
Seeing Liam come so close to death and the family struggle to find a suitable donor has prompted his uncle, Colenso BBDO managing director Neil Livingstone, to create a television advertisement encouraging people to become donors.
"A lot of people think that if they tick their licence, they become a donor," said Mr Livingstone. "That is not correct. You have to tell your family of your intention to become a donor."
He said the advertisement, which TV3 began screening in primetime free of charge this week, was designed to be thought-provoking and get people talking to close relatives about organ donation.
Inspired by Liam's story, people involved gave their time free over the eight months it took to make the advertisement.
Professor Stephen Munn, head of the Liver Transplant Unit, appreciates Mr Livingstone's work.
"I would hope that the ad might stimulate discussion about organ donation so that people's wishes are apparent to their friends and family," he said.
It wasn't until Liam's transplant that Mrs Morgan realised she hadn't talked to her husband Sean about organ donation.
"Of course, now I know the wishes of every family member."
Although Liam will be on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his life, he is well enough to go to kindergarten three days a week and "absolutely loves it", said Mrs Morgan.
"He's a vibrant little boy who runs around with his sister. He's just like any normal 4-year-old except he has a huge scar across his body."
courtesy of the NZ Herald - www.nzherald.co.nz
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