How a $2 toy ball saved a little girl’s life

By Kate Sikora
September 24, 2008 12:00am
SOURCE: The Daily Telegraph – AU 

The next time you play table tennis you may look at ping-pong balls differently…flagranny2

IT costs as little as $2 and until now has been considered little more than a toy, but a simple ping-pong ball is keeping liver transplant patient Mackenzie Argaet alive.

In a world first, a Sydney surgeon has used the radical method in a transplant operation, which has won him international accolades.

Dr Albert Shun, from The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, used the unorthodox approach when confronted with a medical problem while operating on the two-year-old.

Born with biliary artresia, Mackenzie, from Canberra, needed the life-saving operation earlier this year.

But after inserting a portion of the adult-size liver in the little girl, Dr Shun discovered it was too big and was placing pressure on her blood vessels which could have been fatal.

Having heard about the use of ping-pong balls in operations overseas, he decided to test their suitability in transplant surgery.

“I rang my wife and asked her to go to Big W and buy me some ping-pong balls,” he said.

“I was using a sponge as a back-up purpose but there was no way I could close her up the way it was.

“She is the first (transplant patient) in the world that the ping-pongs have been used for these purposes.”

In Mackenzie’s case, the ball keeps the liver off the arteries. Since Mackenzie’s operation, Dr Shun and his team have performed the procedure several times.

However, the ball has only remained in the patients for a few days to allow the swelling to reduce after the transplant.

Dr Shun said Mackenzie’s liver would grow around the ball without causing an infection.

“There shouldn’t be any complications. We are in a unique situation in Australia because we have a low donor rate so we have to be adaptable,” he said.

Unaware she has a foreign object inside her body, little Mackenzie is now running around like every toddler her age.

Her parents Letice Darswell and Guy Argaet are thrilled their daughter is well after she was so seriously ill from birth.

“We didn’t get told about the ping-pong until after the operation,” Ms Darswell said.

“It was a shock when (Dr Shun) came out of surgery.”

Biliary artresia is a rare gastro-intestinal disorder in newborns where the ducts that carry bile from the liver to the intestine are destroyed. Mackenzie’s liver became so scarred that she began to develop cirrhosis and needed a transplant.

“She is so normal now. She is a happy kid,” Ms Darswell said.

Giant Squid Washes Up on Tasmanian Beach

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

HOBART, Australia —  A squid as long as a bus and weighing 550 pounds washed up on an Australian beach, officials said Wednesday.

“It is a whopper,” said Genefor Walker-Smith, a zoologist who studies invertebrates at the Tasmanian Museum.

Giant squid live in waters off southern Australia and New Zealand — where a half-ton colossus, believed to be the world’s largest, was caught in February. They attract the sperm whales that feed on them.

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The dead squid, measuring 3 feet across at its widest point and 26 feet from the tip of its body to the end of its tentacles, was found early Wednesday by a beachcomber at Ocean Beach on the island state of Tasmania’s west coast, the museum said.

The squid was expected to be taken to the museum, where DNA and other scientific tests would be carried out before it is preserved and possibly put on public display.

For anyone thinking of a calamari feast, Walker-Smith said giant squid contain high levels of ammonia in their bodies as a buoyancy aid.

“It would not taste very nice at all,” she said. New Zealand fishermen netted a 1,100-pound, 33-foot-long squid in the Southern Ocean in February.It is widely believed to be the largest specimen of the rare and mysterious deep-water species Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, or colossal squid, ever caught.

[The giant squid, of which the one washed up in Tasmania is believed to be an example, is a different species — one of several in the genus Architeuthis.]

Experts believe the creatures, which have long been one of the most mysterious denizens of the deep ocean, may grow even bigger — up to 46 feet long.