New Zealand's youngest liver transplant recipient celebrates first birthday

Author
Carolyne Meng-Yee, NZ Herald ,
Section
National,
Publish Date
Sunday, 23 December 2018, 10:26a.m.

The wee tot who survived two life-saving transplants in 2018 turns 1 tomorrow – with her aunty who provided part of her liver one of the guests of honour at a special birthday celebration.

Pīpīwharuroa (Pipi) Wallace became the smallest and youngest New Zealander to receive a liver transplant on January 23, at just 4 weeks old.

That gift of life was provided by her aunty Mina Steedman-Prip, who has come over from Brisbane to celebrate her neice's first birthday.

Her family revealed to the Herald last month she had another brush with death in mid-year when she needed a life-saving bone marrow transplant after contracting a rare genetic blood disorder.

Parents Ashleigh Steedman-Prip and Joey Wallace will celebrate Pipi's first birthday in Tokoroa tomorrow. Photo / Alan Gibson

Parents Ashleigh Steedman-Prip and Joey Wallace will celebrate Pipi's first birthday in Tokoroa tomorrow. Photo / Alan Gibson

Tomorrow, family and friends will gather in Tokoroa for a pink, gold and white-themed birthday party to celebrate "how incredible" the wee girl was.

Mina last week flew in from her home in Brisbane to help prepare for the very special celebration.

"It's been so good to see Pipi, especially after everything she has been through," the life-giving aunt told the Herald on Sunday.

"She has been through some big obstacles. I have learned a lot from her strength and courage.

"Pipi has grown so much; her size, her height and her pain tolerance is incredible. She can handle a lot of things. She is very alert and contented- a very happy child."

Shortly after finding out that Pipi needed a liver transplant, and without telling the rest of her family, Mina contacted Starship children's hospital and offered to donate part of her liver.

When doctors discovered it was a match, 24-year-old Mina – who is studying social medial marketing and works at an art gallery - was immediately flown across the Tasman for the operation.

"I'm so pleased I was able to donate my liver to her," she said. "There was never any hesitation for me not to do it. I don't think I did anything special - you do what you need to do.

"It was great I was able to help her and give her a chance at life and now we are here to celebrate her first birthday which is so exciting. This whole year we were never promised that this could happen so that's a miracle in itself."

Pipi's mother Ashleigh Steedman-Prip said her daughter's first birthday was a celebration of her life, a thank-you to all their friends and family who have supported them through Pipi's ordeal.

"Another reason is Pipi hasn't met most of our guests because she has spent most of this year in and out of hospital," she said.

Pipi is New Zealand's youngest liver transplant recipient. Photo / Supplied

Pipi is New Zealand's youngest liver transplant recipient. Photo / Supplied

Last week the toddler was at Auckland's Starship having her monthly blood tests.

"We have to do these for the rest of her life but the doctors told us everything is fine, Pipi is doing really well, we are really happy how she's progressing."

Tokoroa's events centre has been hired for the event, which will be attended by about 100 guests, and a very special pink and white cake has been ordered.

"It's two tiers and in the middle of the cake there is a massive bow with Pipi's name on it and a little elephant on the top of the cake," her mum said.

"Everything in Pipi's room is covered in elephants, from her duvet cover, her toys – they are elephant themed."

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