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This article was published 17/4/2015 (646 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The little girl who needs a liver met the woman who wanted to donate one to her for the first time Thursday.
Allexis Siebrecht, 11, brought a single red rose wrapped in cellophane to thank Samantha Lussier, 24, who returned Wednesday from Toronto after tests eliminated her as a match.
The two met, with their mothers, at the Canadian Liver Foundation Manitoba Chapter. The office is located on the second floor of the RBC Convention Centre.
The meeting was the first because Allexis's mother, Liz, worried a meeting beforehand might give her daughter unrealistic hopes.
'I'm really disappointed. I wasn't a match but I had a really positive experience in Toronto and I encourage everyone to step forward to see if they are a match' -- Samantha Lussier
It was a long week for both families: dawn-to-dusk tests in Toronto for the Lussiers and, for the Siebrechts, the agony of waiting for a phone call at home in Winnipeg. The end came Tuesday.
"I'm really disappointed. I wasn't a match, but I had a really positive experience in Toronto, and I encourage everyone to step forward to see if they are a match," Lussier said.
"I was thinking about her at my home," Allexis told reporters at a new conference that followed the emotional meeting.
Mother Liz sobbed when Samantha's mother, Tina Lussier, wrapped her arms around her after their daughters hugged.
"On Tuesday, I got the call that my anatomy wasn't a match," Samantha said in a news conference that followed.
"Did you cry?" Allexis asked.
"I did cry," Samantha replied.
Only 20 to 30 per cent of potential organ donors are suitable for transplants by the time a battery of blood tests, MRIs and scans is completed in Winnipeg and Toronto.
Allexis suffers from biliary atresia, a rare and sometimes fatal condition in which the openings to the bile ducts in the liver are absent or too narrow to work.
After all the tests -- Samantha made it through to the second-to-last medical hurdle in a process to match donors to recipients -- it turned out her ducts were the wrong size. Patients must undergo surgery in Toronto or London, Ont.
Living donors are easier to find. The wait for an organ from a dead donor is six to eight months in Canada, and thousands wait on liver registries. It takes six to eight weeks for a living donor's liver to grow back to normal size.
The two hugged so hard, so fast, media onlookers almost missed the rose they exchanged. The single bloom was important because of what Allexis wrote on the card she tucked into the cellophane wrap.
"I wrote on it my name and her name," said the Grade 6 student.
The Lussiers have pledged to help the Siebrechts fundraise for when a suitable donor is found. The Siebrechts are selling pink bracelets for $5, such as the ones popular in health and fitness campaigns. "Allexis" is printed on one side; "bilary atresia" on the other.
So far, 76 potential donors have stepped forward to the liver foundation. The fundraising continues. With donations to come from funds left over for the Lussiers, it's expected the total will soon reach more than $10,000. The Siebrechts face an extended stay in Toronto at the same time as they keep up with their bills here once a donor is found and the transplant is performed.
The bracelets are available at the liver foundation; the Facebook page will list links and information about fundraising events and the medical process donors undergo. The first event is expected May 2.