Tim Kowalewski

Major heart surgery at just 13 days old

13 year old Tim Kowalewski was diagnosed with a coarctation of the aorta, and at just 13 days old had to go through major heart surgery. It’s not yet clear when or if another surgery is required. While the condition has slowed him down at times, from the outside he looks like any young teenager, except for the scar.

“I call it the shark-bite scar. It comes from my shoulder around and under my arm. Mum and Dad used to joke and tell people I was bitten by a shark… I’m looking forward to doing that in the future and having a laugh,”

Tim has never let his heart condition get in the way of life. This year will be the seventh time he will jump onto his bike and take part in the 2017 Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. Tim is this year’s Heart Kids Ambassador, and wears the honour with pride.

Every year since he was born the Kowalewski family has been riding the race to support Heart Kids, which is the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge charity. As each of the four children have become old enough, they’ve joined Mum, Cynthia and Dad, Patrick, in competing. What Tim is most excited about is not crossing the finish line, but conquering the Hatepe Hill. "I just LOVE going fast," he exclaims. This year he has one clear goal in mind, “I want to beat my older sister’s time of 1hr 30mins ! I did it in 1hr 40mins last year, but I reckon I can beat that.” It will be another couple of years yet before he tackles the 80km ride.

As well as cycling Tim is a keen hockey player and swimmer. Cynthia says the sports are ideal for heart kids. “We were told Tim should not get involved with serious contact sport, so swimming, cycling and hockey are ideal. It has actually become a family affair, we all exercise together now which is fantastic.”

She says the continued support of Heart Kids throughout Tim’s life has been invaluable. “With events like the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, the Heart Kids annual camp "Brave Hearts” and the regular 'Heart Kids’ family events we have been able to connect with others in a similar situation and Tim has met some lifelong friends. The organisation’s support has had a huge impact on our lives.”