Photography student hailed as hero after raising funds for lifesaving surgery

Samantha Rae Lussier and Allexis Siebrecht

A Red River College student has been hailed a hero for helping to raise funds that allowed an 11-year-old girl to undergo a lifesaving surgery.

Professional Photography student Samantha Lussier (shown, right) was honoured at last month’s Our Manitoba Heroes gala for raising $30,000 to send Allexis Siebrecht (left) to Toronto for a liver transplant last year.

Allexis was born with bileary atresia, a rare condition affecting one out of every 19,000 Canadians. Lussier first became acquainted with the girl after coming across a Facebook post seeking someone with O-positive blood.

Lussier’s blood type was a match, so — inspired by thoughts of her own younger siblings — she started the necessary tests to become an organ donor. But after flying to Toronto for further screening, she was informed her liver was unsuitable for donations.

Disappointed but undeterred, she instead began fundraising on Siebrecht’s behalf, selling handmade bracelets with the girl’s name and hosting a Bud, spud and steak event that generated $30,000.

Siebrecht, meanwhile, saw her health quickly deteriorating — but her prognosis improved after receiving word from Toronto that a suitable donor had been found.

After undergoing a successful surgery, Siebrecht met with Lussier for the first time in Winnipeg.

“It was definitely an emotional day,” Lussier told The Projector, RRC’s student newspaper. “This kid who could have been sick all her life was so energetic and happy. You’d never know she was sick. She is very inspirational.”

Siebrecht made a full recovery within days, and is now busy with dance classes and her school’s basketball and badminton teams. Lussier is set to graduate from RRC in 2017.

Photo credit: Joe Bryksa, Winnipeg Free Press