Ngatokorua Kiria-Joseph, also known as Honey, has overcome the leukaemia she was diagnosed with at just eight months old.
But on December 6 last year her devoted parents Kay Kiria and Vati Joseph found the youngest of their five children facing the greatest fight of her life.
‘‘Our baby went into cardiac arrest in front of us. Her eyes shut, her hands dropped and the machine beeped,’’ Kay says.
The 9-year-old Papatoetoe girl was eventually resuscitated by three doctors at Starship hospital.
She was placed on a life support machine but her heart deteriorated rapidly.
‘‘After much discussion by her medical team, including cardiologists and surgeons, we were told on the evening of December 12 that she had been placed on the top of the emergency list for a heart transplant as it was her only chance of surviving,’’ Kay says.
Miraculously, a donor heart matching Honey’s blood group became available in Victoria, Australia, just nine days after her cardiac arrest. The surgery took nine and a half hours.
‘‘The new heart is doing great,’’ Kay says.
But then trouble struck again. Honey’s lungs ‘‘got really sick’’ which caused continuous shortness of breath and slowed her recovery. Earlier this month she had more surgery, this time to repair a lung.
‘‘It’s another hurdle we have had to overcome and now our final hurdle is to get her fit again,’’ Kay says.
‘‘She’s yet to learn how to walk properly, write, feed and bathe herself – basically the normal things.’’
Honey’s dad is now her fulltime carer as Kay has started working again part-time.
Kay says Honey’s heart problems have been harder to deal with than the leukaemia she was diagnosed with in June 2006.
After two and a half years of treatment and chemotherapy for that, her parents were told Honey was officially in remission in November 2008.
But it hasn’t all been hurdles, her mother says. There have also been the milestones, the successful recoveries and Honey’s continous high spirits.
‘‘The amazing support of family, friends, friends of friends, medical and care teams has helped make things easier for us as a family.
‘‘It has brought us much closer as a family; it has certainly helped her siblings appreciate each other more.
‘‘She’s definitely a child who has the determination to live, to continue to fight battles, not only for herself but for her loving family,’’ Kay says.
By Samantha Smith – Manukau Courier
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