Monday, October 18, 2010

Child receives a new liver, pancreas, bowel and kidneys - twice. Cost: $4 million

Aria MacDonald

TVNZ - New Zealand

A young South Auckland girl has made medical history by having two multi-organ transplants.

More than $4 million has been spent giving Aria MacDonald a new liver, pancreas, bowel and kidneys - twice.

It is the first time the procedure has been attempted in the United States at the specialist transplant hospital in Nebraska where Aria is being treated.

But giving Aria the chance of a normal life has cost New Zealand taxpayers $4.3 million.

In her four years Aria has known constant pain and teetered between life and death after being born with a rare genetic condition.

Aria's bowel doesn't work, meaning she can't eat. Her parents were first told by doctors to let her starve to death but Anita and Hamish MacDonald could not accept that.

"What mother would let her child die of starvation," Anita said.

Under the care of Starship Hospital gastroenterologist Helen Evans, Aria was given nutrition directly into her heart through a tube - but that same nutrition caused vital organs to fail.

"We see her declining and you can see the whites of her eyes, she's yellow," Anita said.

Last year the government agreed to provide funding for a four organ transplant in the United States, but a small child would have to to die to save Aria's life.

And after surgery which proved more complex than surgeons had anticipated, Aria's body rejected the organs. But the doctors wanted to try again.

Another transplant was the only option if Aria was to live, surgeon Jean Botha said.

The failure of the first surgery meant the Macdonalds had to apply to the New Zealand government for funding again but the ministry said the expected long-term savings to the health care system outweigh the initial costs of the treatment.

And for Aria's parents there was no question about what they had to do.

"We felt strongly that it was our duty as parents to fight for Aria's life, as long as there was a decent chance of having a decent life, it was the right course for us to pursue," Hamish said.

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