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Lion Foundation Helps Starship Save Babies’ Lives

24 February 2006
News release

The Lion Foundation Helps Starship Save Babies’ Lives

A special machine estimated to save the lives of at least five babies a year is now available at Starship Children’s Health, thanks to six-figure help from The Lion Foundation.

The Tandem Mass Spectrometer (TMS) provides an improved and more efficient way of metabolic testing for newborn babies, potentially allowing for an extra 30 conditions to be checked.

The machine costs $500,000 and The Lion Foundation has contributed more than half that.

The Lion Foundation chief executive David Conroy said: “When the Starship Foundation approached us for help, we immediately agreed to provide the additional $255,000 they needed.

“This machine will potentially benefit all children born in New Zealand because it allows for greatly improved diagnosis and testing.

“Starship specialists estimate five to six lives a year will be saved and the lives of many other children enhanced because early detection means many conditions can be successfully treated,” said Conroy.

Every child in New Zealand is tested for metabolic diseases just after birth with their results sent to the Lab Plus facility, next to Starship in Auckland.

Starship Foundation chief executive Andrew Young said the blood collection from each newborn is a familiar experience for thousands of new parents each year and has been standard practise for four decades.

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“The centre currently tests for seven treatable metabolic conditions and now, with the TMS, it will do this more efficiently and potentially test for an additional 30 conditions. Another major benefit is faster and more accurate diagnosis for patients presenting with rare and complex conditions.

“About 60,000 babies are expected to be tested in the first year alone. This is tremendous news for parents and their children and The Starship Foundation is extremely grateful to The Lion Foundation for its generous support,” said Young.

One family who can see the immediate benefits is the Dawkins family from Green Bay, Auckland. Seven year old Maggie Dawkins was diagnosed with a suspected metabolic condition at 10 weeks of age. Her parents had to wait six weeks before she was diagnosed with LCHAD, a potentially life threatening enzyme disorder.

LCHAD prevents Maggie’s body from using stored essential fatty acids, which can quickly lead to low blood-sugar levels, muscle and organ damage and brain damage.

Maggie’s mother Christine says that if the disease had been picked up earlier it would have saved the family from a lot of stress and anxiety.

“Metabolic diseases are so hard to diagnose, which means that babies are dying from what people assume is cot death. Testing on the TMS will mean that families will be able to understand what is wrong within days of birth.”

Young said the remainder of the spectrometer’s cost had been provided jointly by the RA Bell Trust and JA Thompson Trust.

“Without the support of these organisations and The Lion Foundation we would have been unable to purchase this life-saving equipment,” Young said.

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Editors Notes:

The Starship Foundation is a charitable trust which raises funds to provide additional equipment, comfort items, facilities, research and community health programmes at Starship Children’s Health, Auckland District Health Board and national child health services.

The Lion Foundation is a charitable trust that raises funds and distributes grants to benefit Kiwi communities. Last year, The Lion Foundation funded groups throughout the community in the areas of health, education, arts, culture, sport and the environment to the tune of nearly $60 million. Over our 20-year history, that amount is in excess of $320 million.


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