Community takes the plunge to support HeartKids

By Regan Paranihi

The trauma of heart defects has taken centre stage at the annual Heart Stopper gathering in Wellington today.

Wellingtonians plunge in a tub of cold icy water today to raise awareness and money for children with congenital heart defects. 

It was a cool way to show support for those babies who are born with heart defects.

Heart patient, Jordan Wansborough (Taranaki, Te Atiawa, Ngāti Maru) says, "We are taking a plunge into a very ice-cold water, it can't be as cold as Te Rere o Kapuni, but we'll see."

He also says he too is a part of that percentage of babies born with this condition.

"I was five hours old when I had my first open-heart surgery. And then at 18 months, I think it was I had my second one, and just recently in 2011 I have another open-heart surgery."

It's a condition that can stem and spiral from the way someone lives. 

"A lot of our Pasifika and Māori whānau have heart defects because of housing, because of their situation and they don't believe they can get the help. Just ask and the help will come," says Wansborough.

Despite the ups and downs, Wansborough says there's only one way forward when living with a heart condition.

"It been pretty hard but you have to get over it and deal with it and continue, I was told I was never able to ride a horse, I've been riding all my life. I couldn't walk, I was wheelchair-bound and I just continued what I needed to do."

 Emma-Kait Woodham is another who has a heart condition and she says there's not enough resources to support patients mentally.

"We all have these heart conditions but there's so much more that goes into it. There's all the hospital stays, the procedures that leave the children really anxious. A lot of them have trauma and we just don't have enough resources."

"Heart Kids New Zealand has done a lot for me in my life and I want to give back to the kaupapa," adds Wansborough.

Every week 12 babies are born with heart defects here in New Zealand and HeartKids is the only charity that supports families every step of their heart journey.