Stayin' alive - iwi leader's fight for life

By Native Affairs
  • South Island

Tahu Potiki was a high-flying Maori executive and life was good.  However, Tahu was being poisoned.  It was enough to make him feel off-colour, just not enough to make him realise he was very sick.

Tahu self-diagnosed, "I just thought I was unhealthy, overweight," he says.

It was not until the poison reached his brain and his behaviour became irrational that he and his family realised something was seriously wrong.

It took a year for the correct diagnosis; the most debilitating liver brain disease - hepatic encephalopathy.

It was Tahu’s liver that was poisoning him.  

Tahu needed a liver transplant. It seemed likely he would die before a suitable organ became available. For seven months he waited.

At one point the doctors gave Tahu just three weeks to live.

The realisation that he would likely die was even tougher for his wife and his young children.

Tahu's wife Megan Ellison-Potiki says, "Waiting for someone to die for a long period is really tough and the kids seeing that illness- that sickness- day in, day out.  That was probably the worst thing they’ve known."

Tahu received the news that there was a donor organ available and it appeared to be a match.  He went under the knife and received his new liver. 

While for the rest of his life Tahu must take anti-immune drugs to ensure his body does not reject his new liver he has had no side effects. 

Megan says he has come back a better person, Tahu just says he is grateful to be alive.