Ariah Gillon-Smith

Otago's Brave Heart

Ariah was born with Tetralogy of Fallot, a combination of heart defects. She has had two open heart surgeries, and too many medical procedures to count. Her first surgery was at just three months old. 

Mum Sam says they’ve spent over 370 days in hospital, either in Auckland, Dunedin or Christchurch.

Her last procedure was in March this year in Auckland and doctors told her she isn't allowed to exercise too much, and certainly no running.  But try telling that to an active young girl who loves her sport.  Her mum says it is quite hilarious. "She has mastered the art of fast walking.. and while technically it is not running, it may as well be," laughs Sam. Ariah told her mum she just can’t wait to not feel out of breath or tired. Sam says we knew she needed the last surgery because she used to get puffed walking from the school gate to the car. 

Sam says Ariah finds it really hard to keep up with her friends, but when she’s not feeling well, the school lets her choose a mate to stay in the classroom with her so she’s not by herself.

Sam says the downside of being so sick is missing so much school. "But luckily she is a bright kid who loves reading and writing so she's not behind her peers," says Sam.