Family's quest to boost NZ organ donor numbers

Family's quest to boost NZ organ donor numbers

The youngest New Zealander to ever undergo a heart transplant has returned home from Australia.

The family is now on a quest to boost donor numbers in this country to help more people in need of organs.

"She's a changed child," says mum Veronika Klingler. "She's so much more outgoing now. She's full of energy. She's eating like a normal, healthy child, so you wouldn't know unless you see her scar."

Not yet even three, Lily Leadbetter is the youngest Kiwi to ever receive a heart. She was born with a condition -- hypoplastic left heart syndrome, meaning the left side of her heart was underdeveloped. A transplant was her only option.

But to find a donor they had to move to Australia, where they waited seven months for a heart. If they'd stayed in New Zealand, Lily had almost no chance because donor numbers here are so low -- an average of just one child donor a year. The family wants to change that.

"The amount of kids here I've seen pass away because they couldn't do anything makes me really cross, really upset. So I think they need to review the policies in this country," says Ms Klingler.

They support an opt-out system, which assumes consent to donate unless people specifically choose not to.

Now back home in Wellington, reunited with Millie the family dog, dad Adam Leadbetter says Lily is taking to her new heart.

"Yeah, a different girl -- we're trying to keep up with her now."

They can't thank the donating family enough for their gift to Lily.

"What they've given Lily is a new start," says Mr Leadbetter. "They went through the biggest loss but they've given us an amazing gift."

They hope by raising awareness, more children like Lily will get a second chance.