Heart Kids Stories:

Whaimanawa Morunga

Whaimanawa's Story

Like so many heart kids, when you look at young Auckland boy Whaimanawa Morunga you would never guess this gorgeous little five year old was born with a life threatening heart defect.

He runs around with his four siblings, playing games and getting into mischief just like every other child his age. But this little brave heart has already been through more than many adults.

Little Whai was born with Pulmonary Atresia, a blockage of the pulmonary valve as well as Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome, a condition where the right ventricle of the heart has not developed properly. In his five short years he has undergone three open heart surgeries and spent 54 days in hospital.

Mum Stacey, an international flight attendant for Air New Zealand says before Whai she knew nothing about congenital heart defects (CHDs). “We found out something was wrong at our 20 week scan and we had absolutely no idea what to expect. It was a scary time for all of us.”

Through cardiologist Tom Gentles, Stacey and husband Chris were put in touch with Heart Kids, who provided support, resources and probably the most valuable thing, a connection to other parents of heart babies and children.

“Heart Kids has been incredible, providing us with a network of other parents to share information with. I am still part of a group of mums and we have our own facebook page. We don’t go many days without talking to each other,” Stacey laughs.

With Chris teaching Te Reo at Wiri Primary school and Stacey, an international flight attendant, it can be a busy time juggling a set of triplets, Whai’s younger three year old brother as well as Whai, but thanks to support from both her and her husbands family they make it work.

“Sometimes it can get pretty busy, but at least with my roster it is easy to plan ahead, so I can make sure I can be around for many of Whai’s medical appointments. And with Chris teaching at Whai’s school he is always on hand if anything was to go wrong.”

While Whai lives a pretty normal life, there are some things he does have to be careful about explains Stacey. “He is permanently on warfarin, the blood thinning medication, which means he has to be careful about getting knocked, and always testing to ensure his levels are OK.”

As to Whai’s future, Stacey says it’s not clear. “No one really knows how long the last procedure – the Fontan - will last for, but as his heart deteriorates, he could face heart failure, which would ultimately mean he’d need a heart transplant.”

Stacey says because Whai was a lot older when he had his last surgery, he knew what was going on and he has been quite traumatised by it. “As a result he’s not a big fan of hospital, so we’re really hoping we won’t need to return any time in the near future.”