Mum donates liver to save her daughters life
By Wendy Committie
January 27 was a jubilant day for parents Kirsti Meier and Brendon Burrows, as baby Sierra was born at a tiny 2.2kgs.
However, shortly afterward, Sierra became jaundiced and began having trouble eating.
The couple was advised to ensure she got plenty of sun.
Despite the sunshine, they exposed her to daily, baby Sierra remained severely jaundiced at seven weeks old.
Mom, Kirsti, knew instinctively that something was not right with little Sierra.
Through blood tests and consultations, allergies and various diseases were ruled out, and doctors continued to advise sun exposure to correct the jaundice.
By five months old, the jaundice had worsened, and during a visit by a doctor to examine big sister, Kyra, aged 4, the doctor noted Sierra’s swollen stomach.
He immediately became alarmed and insisted the baby be taken directly to a pediatrician. Sierra was quickly admitted to the Frere Hospital, where she was given an ultrasound to check her gallbladder.
The results showed no problems with the gallbladder and further blood tests were taken to start ruling out rare diseases.
During this time, a biopsy was done, and two days later, they received the results that were going to change their lives forever.
Baby Sierra was diagnosed with Biliary Artesia, a rare liver disease, that causes severe cirrhosis of the liver.
At a fragile age of five months, baby Sierra had the disease of a severe alcoholic, and they were told she would need an urgent liver transplant.
Kirsti and Brendon were advised that there was a three to six-month wait for a transplant, but their baby could very likely not live long enough to receive one.
It was at this point that parental instincts kicked in, as both mom and dad decided that their baby would live and that they would do anything it would take to make this a reality.
Within a short space of time, Kirsti relocated to Johannesburg, with baby Sierra, while Brendon held the fort at home in East London, with four-year-old Kyra.
Five emotional, draining, and terrifying months followed. Kirsti donated her own liver, and following a grueling psychological assessment, and ticking off the boxes of the strict criteria required for a living transplant, mother and baby were ready for the operation that would save Sierra’s life.
On September 9, the surgery was performed at the Donald Gordon Hospital in Johannesburg, by which time, Kirsti’s mother had joined them in Johannesburg. Grandmom had to be admitted to hospital with Sierra, as Kirsti could not be the official caregiver, given her own surgical rehabilitation needs.
Baby Sierra has made a miraculous recovery since her operation, going from strength to strength. She was allowed to return to East London where the family could be reunited again, on October 28.
Sierra is on the road to recovery with a very happy sister, Kyra and brother, Dimitri.
There is so much more to this story, and the journey can be followed on the Facebook page, Pray for baby Sierra, that was set up to share the challenges and help raise funds, prayers, and assistance towards this miracle.
Both Kirsti and Brendon are extremely grateful to the many people who have helped them along the way.
They would like parents to know more about not only this disease but the options available, that so many are unaware of.