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Half-sisters recovering from living donor liver transplant

07/04/2012 12:12 EDT | Updated 09/02/2012 05:12 EDT
A Kelowna, B.C., toddler is recovering in an Edmonton hospital following a life-saving liver transplant provided by her half-sister from New Zealand.

Doctors diagnosed Ashlyn Lang with tyrosinemia, a rare liver disorder, after her third birthday in February.

Tyrosinemia is a condition that prevents Ashlyn’s liver from breaking down certain proteins and can be fatal.

The toddler found hope for a transplant in her 21-year-old half-sister, who lives more than 12,000 kilometres away in New Zealand.

Allison Lang said she had only met Ashlyn a few times, but as soon as she found out her liver was a match, she was on a plane headed to Canada.

“For anybody who knows that there is a possibility they can help a family member, you would go,” Allison said. “It wasn’t something I really had to think about.”

Doctors performed the five-hour liver transplantation surgery at Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton, removing one-third of Allison’s liver and giving it to Ashlyn.

“It’s hard, because it is like going to sleep completely healthy, thinking you can do anything … and then waking up, you can’t breathe, you hurt,” Allison said.

Ashlyn’s mother, Lisa Lang, said she knew since her daughter was a baby that something was wrong.

“It’s frustrating, because you think as a parent that you are going crazy,” Lang said. “You think, 'Maybe it’s in my head, there is nothing wrong with her, the specialists say there is nothing wrong with her.'

“But in my heart I knew that there was. She just wasn’t a normal, happy baby.”

Both half-sisters are now recovering and Allison is expected to head back to New Zealand on Wednesday.

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