Home' Advocate Communications : Fiordland Advocate 6 October 2011 Contents OTAUTAU ROLLS
OUT THE RED
CARPET PAGE 22
6 October, 2011
Local, Loyal and Loving it!
Tracy Holmes, the young Otautau
girl who in 1986 became New
Zealand's first liver transplant
recipient, this week celebrated 25
years with her donated organ.
Now 36 and living a normal,
healthy life in Hamilton, Miss
Holmes said she was "very
blessed" and delighted to be
celebrating the milestone with
family and friends from throughout
the country at a special 25-year
anniversary party this Saturday.
Among the 80-plus guests will be
childhood friends from Otautau
Primary School Linda Stearne
(nee Wisely) and Robyn Burnett
(now living in Christchurch).
Tracy's 88-year-old grandmother
Ellen Baldwin, of Tuatapere
will also be flying up. And the
Dunedin doctor who originally
recommended her for a transplant
when the procedure was virtually
unheard of in New Zealand,
Professor Gil Barbezat, who went
on to become the Director of the
Medical Teaching Support Unit
and Mary Glendining Professor of
Medicine at the Dunedin School of
Medicine, has also accepted the
invitation. Miss Holmes has not
seen him since 1996.
Tracy Holmes was born with an
extremely rare alpha-1 antitrypsin
deficiency. In layman's terms it's
a missing enzyme from the liver.
Both of her parents were carriers
and the chance that they would
meet and have her was one in
three million. At the time of her
diagnosis she was the only known
sufferer in New Zealand.
By age 10 the condition had
caused cirrhosis of the liver,
dangerously high blood pressure
and enlargement of the spleen.
Her specialists at Dunedin
Hospital recommended a liver
transplant but the procedure was
so new that it was not available in
either New Zealand or Australia
-- she would have to travel to
The local community rallied
and before long the fundraising
campaign went nationwide. All
up $160,000 was raised to get
Tracy, her parents Ngaire and Gary
and her older sister Shelley to the
United Kingdom for the pioneering
surgery -- the bulk of the money
put up by generous Southlanders.
The transplant took place on May
16, 1986. It was a huge success
and within weeks Tracy was back
home. However it wasn't too
long before the outlook began to
change. The whole country was
watching her progress and Mr
Holmes recalled the pressure as
they realised the donated liver
was failing: "We snuck her back
into hospital without the media
knowing," he said.
But good news was around the
corner. In September she returned
to England and on October 3
received her second donated liver.
This time she stayed much longer
to ensure everything was well
before returning home and she's
barely looked back since.
Being the first liver recipient
in New Zealand doesn't
automatically qualify you to be the
longest surviving recipient and
Miss Holmes is very conscious
that others have had the operation
since and not lived a life as long
and rewarding as she.
"I'm just lucky I guess... it was
obviously a perfect match and it
was meant to be," she said.
"My theory is live every day like it's
your last. I don't look too far into
the future, I just live."
And live she does. She holds
down a fulltime job as a training
and development specialist in the
claims unit of the Southern Cross
Health Society -- ironic considering
her pre-existing conditions render
her ineligible to take out health
insurance herself. Any spare
time is spent in the theatre
where she is a keen member
of Musikmakers, an amateur
musical society in Hamilton. For
the past two years she has been
the production manager for the
group's major shows -- Oliver last
year and Footloose this year. The
company's base, the Riverlea
Theatre, is her home away from
home and the venue for Saturday
•Continued on Page 3
The south's gift of life
Still with that same infectious smile, Tracy Holmes, now 36, is the picture of
health 25 years after her liver transplant operation.
By Kirsty Macnicol
The image that tugged heartstrings,
not only in Southland but throughout
New Zealand -- Tracy Holmes, then
just 10 and in need of a life-saving
liver transplant that was not available
in New Zealand or Australia.
INSIDE PAGES 12 & 13
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