Willie Terpstra's diagnosis in 2004 revealed that she had motor neurone disease.. Motor neurone disease leads to the loss of voluntary muscle activity that aids speaking, breathing and swallowing
Willie left her home in Rotorua 18 months ago, to have a foetal cell tansplantation operation in China. Many countries including New Zealand ban this operation.
The Chinese operation involved the transplantation of around two million cells from an aborted foetus into Mrs Terpstra's brain. Surgeons at Beijing West Hill Hospital performed this operation.
After the operation, Mrs.Terpstra showed signs of improvement. Within days, her breathing, talking and eating improved. Nevertheless, her progress did not last long; the symptoms returned, her condition deteriorated and she died on Thursday night.
Mrs.Terpstra's body is at their family home in Rotorua and the funeral is onWednesday.