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Queensland woman donates her monster-sized liver to medical science

Jackie Sinnerton, August 2, 2017 11:17AM The Courier-Mail

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Fiona Murray before her surgery. Picture: supplied media_cameraFiona Murray before her surgery. Picture: supplied


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A QUEENSLAND mother has donated her mind-blowingly monster liver to medical science.

For seven years Fiona Murray could barely bend as the herculean*-sized organ grew and grew until it had invaded most of her body.

A healthy human liver is typically 1.5kg or less while Mrs Murray’s liver, which was ravaged by polycystic kidney disease, topped over 12kg.

The Greenbank woman weighed under 60kg following its removal after a kidney and liver transplant.

The liver’s role is to remove toxins from chemicals in the body, while kidneys are vital to human health because of all the different roles they perform in the body. They control blood pressure, filter water, clean the blood and manage the body’s production of vitamin D.

Mrs Murray’s liver is the first living donor specimen to be donated to The University of Queensland for research.

Fiona Murray and her liver. Picture: supplied media_cameraFiona Murray and her liver. Picture: supplied

“It was frightening that this colossal* thing was getting bigger and I didn’t know where it would end. I was lucky enough to have a lifesaving kidney and liver transplant and now I’m living life to the full,” she said.

Mrs Murray knew she could never become an organ donor due to her hereditary* disease but offered her organ to be used by The University of Queensland for research.

The liver was donated to UQ’s Integrated Pathology* Learning Centre (IPLC), within the Faculty of Medicine.

The IPLC houses 2500 pathology specimens and uses the latest technology to create interactive learning resources to teach students about human diseases.

“My liver is the first living donor specimen to be donated. I am glad to be able to offer something back to medical science. The size of the liver definitely shocked the doctors,” she said.

Mrs Murray was in hospital on dialysis before her oversized liver was removed.

Dialysis is a temporary treatment for liver and kidney failure that patients use while waiting for a transplant.

“For seven years I looked like I was nine months’ pregnant. The liver was squashing all the other organs in my body. It was a scary situation,” she said.

A dialysis machine. Picture: Stuart Milligan media_cameraA dialysis machine. Picture: Stuart Milligan

At 47, Mrs Murray is now playing netball and riding her bike regularly and forever grateful to the donor family for giving her new life.

She is encouraging families to discuss organ and tissue donation during DonateLife Week this week.

“I think organ donation is an exceptionally unselfish gift that everybody in a time of grief makes. It’s a decision that everybody should try to think of before anything happens.”

Mrs Murray said she wanted to thank her donor family but due to strict privacy laws she was unable to meet them and instead wrote an anonymous letter of thanks.

In Australia only one in three people have joined the Australian Organ Donor Register and more than 1400 people are waiting for an organ transplant.


herculean: muscular and strong
colossal: huge
hereditary: inherited
pathology: science that looks at the causes and effects of diseases



Activity 1. Comprehension

• What health problem did Fiona Murray have?

• What did this health problem do to her liver?

• What problems did this cause for Fiona?

• What did Fiona do when her liver was removed?

• Why did she do this?


As you have read in the story, Fiona is a live organ donor.
After her diseased liver was removed, she was given a liver donated by someone who had died.

List the reasons why you think organ donation is important.

Then use your ideas to write a script for a radio advertisement that encourages people to think about organ and tissue donation.
Include music and even a jingle (short song).

Time: allow 60 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum links: English, Ethical Capability, Media Arts, Music

Activity 2.

Do you know what our livers do in our bodies?
Find out and create a list of fascinating facts about your liver.


The liver is part of our digestive system.
The digestive system turns the food we eat into the different things that our bodies need.
Find out more about our digestive system.

Then use the information you have found to design a timeline, a guide with pictures or a storyboard for an animation.
This will help other students understand what happens to a piece of food on it’s journey through the different parts of the digestive system.

Time: allow 100 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum Links: Science, Health and Physical Education, Visual Communication Design, Media Arts


(Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers, Punctuation)

VCOP tag

Make a list of all the VCOP you can find in the article.
Write them down on coloured pieces of paper.
Now you have all the resources you need to play VCOP tag!

The game begins with three taggers who all carry around VCOP tag cards.
If they catch someone, they hand them a card.
The tagged player must then read the card and run over to the teacher.
The only way they can get back into the game is to create a sentence using the VCOP on their card.
The game continues until all the cards have been used up.

Then start again with some new taggers.

Convince your teacher to take you outside to play!

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum links: English, Big Write, VCOP







Extra Reading in science