Age is no barrier for generosity

Wednesday November 08, 2017 Written by Published in Local
Lachlann’s family, (From left to right) Lachlann’s sister Jennifer, Father Jon, Brother Hamish (back), Mother Marie and sister Ffion. 17102766 Lachlann’s family, (From left to right) Lachlann’s sister Jennifer, Father Jon, Brother Hamish (back), Mother Marie and sister Ffion. 17102766

Sometimes, a simple act of generosity can have far-reaching and life altering effects. That’s certainly the case for Lachlann Muhl who at just 14 years old saved the lives of four individuals – one being eight month old Dominic Joseph-Kura, a young Cook Islands boy.


Lachlann, a cycling and orienteering enthusiast from New Zealand was just 14 when he sustained a terrible head injury which left him brain dead.

His family, overcome with the sudden death of their beloved son and brother made the honourable decision to donate his organs - a decision Lachlann believed was important and valuable.

Lachlann’s mother Marie Muhl said that although the family never openly discussed organ donation, that the youngster had coincidentally made his views on the matter clear just a year before the accident.

“About a year ago my husband and Lachlan’s dad, Jon, found him searching for our driving licences.

“When Jon asked why, Lachlann explained that he was checking that we had ticked the “consent” for organ donation on his licence.

“He obviously thought this was very important” Marie said.

Compassionate and altruistic actions were not out of the ordinary for young Lachy, who is described by his family as a well-loved boy, who brought light and laughter to everyone he met.

“He was cheerful, mischievous, good humoured and a really loving boy.

“Lachy (Lachlann) found it easy to make friends and relate with all ages of people. He was kind and compassionate and always had a hug for you and did not exclude people – often making friends with or sticking up for the underdog,” a proud Marie said.

Understandably when Lachlann passed away, the decision to donate his organs and turn off the ventilator didn’t come easy, but with the support of Lachlanns siblings, Jennifer, 22, Ffion, 20, and Hamish, 16, the family agreed to donate his organs.

It was said that Lachlann remained on a ventilator until the organ donation team travelled from Auckland to Invercargill the day after he was pronounced brain dead.

“During this time lots of testing took place, such as blood tests and heart scans to find out his tissues type and to check the health of his organs. We filled in multiple forms and spoke to many people,” Marie said.

“The transplant team were in constant contact with the hospital checking on his ventilation and blood status, making sure that his organs were kept in the optimum state possible through the night.

“At this time recipients - very sick people at the top of the transplant waiting lists, whose tissue types matched Lachlanns, were being contacted and prepared in hospitals around the country,” Marie said.

That is where Dominic and Lachlanns paths crossed.

Suffering from extreme jaundice and biliary atresia, the eight month old, Cook Islands born Dominic was flown to New Zealand to receive medical treatment for his life threatening disease.

His family were told that the duct which flushes the bile out of the liver and into the gallbladder wasn’t working. The bile was quickly building up in Dominic’s liver and damaging it irreversibly. The only cure: a liver transplant.

From here Dominic’s mum was urgently flown to New Zealand, in order to give consent for him to be put on the liver transplant list, where they would have to wait till a match was found for a transplant. The match was 14-year-old Lachy.

On the morning of January 21, 2017 in Invercargill Lachlanns organs were removed and transported to each recipient. Young Dominic, who had spent his last eight months undergoing surgeries, biopsies, blood tests and even at one point, stopped breathing – received a healthy liver that same day.

It is not customary for organ donor families and recipients to be given each other’s contact details, Marie said. Organ Donation New Zealand (ODNZ) assigns a coordinator to both groups, but all information about the recipients and donors is kept confidential. Letters can be written to one another through ODNZ but they have to remain anonymous.

However, fate had another plan, and Marie stumbled across Tangi Ruvea, Dominic’s grandmother on Facebook, a discovery she said was overwhelming.

“I really wanted to see if I could find any of his organ recipients.

“Social media makes it very easy to do a bit of amateur detective work and it wasn’t too long before I realised whose Facebook page I was on.

“We had been told that Lachlann’s liver had gone to a baby boy. His organs had been removed on the morning/afternoon of Saturday January 21 and that an 8 month old Dominic had received his liver transplant on the evening of the very same day.

“I was absolutely blown away initially. It took me quite a few weeks before I reached out by sending Tangi a Facebook message. I explained to her that I thought Lachy’s liver had gone to Dominic.

“I felt so nervous, I didn’t want to impose on Tangi or her family – and I had no expectation for her to respond,” Marie said.

Within just a few hours Marie received an emotional message from Tangi and her daughter, Dominic’s mum.

“It was the start of a lovely friendship,” Marie said.

From there it wasn’t long until Marie and her eldest daughter Jennifer organised a trip to Auckland to meet Dominic and his family, an experience the pair described as “incredible”.

“My oldest daughter Jennifer and I visited the family in Auckland a few months ago and met Dominic. What a beautiful baby he is and what a loving and caring family he has,” an emotional Marie said.

The Muhl family made a scrapbook and filled half of the book with photos of Lachlan and gifted it to Dominic and his family — Marie suggested they fill the rest of the book with photos and memoirs from Dominic’s life – a heart-warming and sentimental gift Tangi said the family will treasure endlessly.

Upon meeting Dominic, the mother of four said she felt an indescribable connection with Dominic.

“I felt such a connection with Dominic, and the whole family when I met him – it’s hard to describe. It’s like an incredible joy that has come out of such a sad event,” she said.

Less than a year ago, the Muhl family lost their son and brother, but since then the family have found joy in knowing that Dominic now has a chance at a normal life, a result of their wee Lachy.

“My son was healthy and happy for all of his life. Dominic has had illness and pain for most of his short life. I am so happy that he has been given this opportunity for a healthy life.

“Organ donation is amazing – it truly is like the silver lining in a cloud.

“As my husband says, “our pain is their gain, but their gain is also ours,” Marie said.

Marie and her family continue to remain in contact with Dominic’s family, and her two daughters have already planned another visit to see Dominic next month. The family also plan to visit Tangi and her husband in Rarotonga next year.

Since Lachlanns death the Muhl family have become strong advocates for organ donation and have recently spoken at a kidney health forum, a bid to promote organ donation. Marie has said she is interested in further promoting organ donation and is considering becoming a live kidney donor.

She urges any family who are contemplating organ donation of a family member who is critically ill to strongly consider it.

“To have been through the tragic loss of a child and to have the pain of grief – it has been a blessing to know that some sense has come out of a senseless loss, by four people having a chance of a normal life after receiving Lachy’s organs.

“The ripples of sadness and grief that we and our wider group of family and friends have felt due to Lachy’s death have been magnified fourfold and converted into ripples of joy and hope for the families and friends of the four recipients, especially Dominic. Lachlanns gift of life and organ donation in general, is very powerful and is the message of what compassion and an act of giving can do,” Marie said.

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