Sa­mara’s in good heart

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By KA­RINA ABADIA

STAFF at Green­lane Hos­pi­tal once called her the ‘‘Swiss cheese girl.’’

Sa­mara McKen­zie was born with ven­tric­u­lar sep­tal de­fect and had more than 12 holes in her heart.

Now she’s 12 and fundrais­ing for Heart Kids Aware­ness Month. The campaign sup­ports Heart Kids NZ, the char­ity that helped her fam­ily through the tough times.

Sa­mara spent three days in early Au­gust col­lect­ing do­na­tions with her friends out­side her par­ents’ gro­cery store Al­ber­ton Fine Foods Four Square in Mt Al­bert. A do­na­tion bucket will also be in the store un­til the end of the month.

‘‘Heart Kids NZ helped me a lot when I was lit­tle,’’ Sa­mara says. ‘‘We’d do­nated as a fam­ily be­fore but never fundraised our­selves.’’

Sa­mara was a healthy eight pounds at birth but soon showed signs of be­ing un­well. Her par­ents Lo­gan and Ni­cola McKen­zie were con­cerned she wasn’t putting on weight af­ter three weeks and took her to hos­pi­tal.

Hear­ing the di­ag­no­sis was re­ally hard, Lo­gan McKen­zie says.

‘‘We were just dev­as­tated be­cause we didn’t know there was a re­cov­ery pro­ce­dure. We thought it was all over.

‘‘But once we got into the unit and talked to the sur­geon and the reg­is­trar, we knew there was hope.’’

Sa­mara had open heart surgery when she was three months old at Green­lane Hos­pi­tal’s Pae­di­atric Car­diac Unit and un­der­went the same pro­ce­dure again at 14 months. She nearly died on the op­er­at­ing ta­ble and had to be put on a by­pass ma­chine twice.

Even then, her re­cov­ery wasn’t straight­for­ward. Com­pli­ca­tions re­sult­ing from the op­er­a­tion meant both her lungs col­lapsed and she had to be rushed back into surgery.

Sa­mara finds it all a lit­tle hard to com­pre­hend.

‘‘When I first heard about it I was pretty shocked. I’m aware of what hap­pened more now be­cause I can un­der­stand it bet­ter.’’

Her class­mates no­tice her scar and of­ten have ques­tions about it, not that she minds. It just means she’s got sto­ries to tell.

Her heart will never be com­pletely fixed but it’s man­age­able, her mother says. She gets mi­nor chest pains, be­comes tired more eas­ily than other kids and can’t eat a lot at once, but it doesn’t hold the keen swim­mer back.

Heart Kids NZ or­gan­ised ac­com­mo­da­tion for the fam­ily near Green­lane Hos­pi­tal dur­ing the op­er­a­tions and helped out with food parcels.

‘‘If she needed some­thing she got it. There was no wait­ing around,’’ her fa­ther says.

For­ever grate­ful: Sa­mara McKen­zie, 12, says the chil­dren’s char­ity Heart Kids NZ pro­vides a fan­tas­tic ser­vice.

Dif­fi­cult start: Sa­mara McKen­zie at 14 months af­ter en­dur­ing her sec­ond open heart surgery op­er­a­tion.

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