Heart Kids Stories:

Zoe Melrose

Zoe's Story

Ask any parent who has to deal with a sick, vomiting child, it can be exhausting. Staying up at night with them, with a bowl at the ready, clean clothes and linen. The thing that keeps you going is knowing the illness usually passes within a few days, and things will be back to normal soon enough.

So could you even imagine what it would be like if your child vomited every single day, at least once, and there was nothing you could do to stop it?

Well, this is what life is like for little two year old Zoe Melrose. While most children have a cuddly toy to carry around, this gorgeous little Auckland toddler has a bowl or a cup. But that is the least of her problems.

Little Zoe is a brave heart. She was born with Truncus Arteriosus – a rare type of heart disease in which a single blood vessel (truncus arteriosus) comes out of the right and left ventricles, instead of the normal two vessels (pulmonary artery and aorta).

At just two years of age Zoe has already had multiple surgeries and spent more than 180 days in hospital. Her first surgery saw her on the heart by-pass machine for eight hours. She’s due for another operation soon which will be her third by-pass operation and fourth operation altogether.

Her mum Rachael says for the first year of her life Zoe had to be fed through a tube, and she has never learnt to eat properly. As a result she struggles to put weight on. Doctors have told them the best way for Zoe to have successful surgeries is to keep her weight up and as a result little Zoe has to be fed through a tube every night. “For one reason or another most mornings Zoe has to bring up any excess food or extra fluid that’s built up over night. It’s just part of our daily routine now.”

If it wasn’t for the tube you wouldn’t really know Zoe was born with a broken heart. “She is full on and cheeky and has lots of fun playing with her four year old brother.” But, mum explains, every now and again you’ll notice she just stops, squats down and takes a breather. “Zoe is only operating on 70% oxygen in her blood. You and I would be a shade of blue with that amount of oxygen, but possibly because of the hole in her heart it isn’t noticeable.”

Rachel says words can’t explain just how much Heart Kids has helped her family. “From the daily visits on the hospital ward by Nana Marie, Diane and Katya to the information evenings and support in the home, it has just been incredible. There were so many times when we felt like we were living in this parallel universe, this totally unreal life, but somehow they managed to make it feel normal and real at the same time. They always knew what to say, how to say it and when to say it. It was extraordinary!”

Rachel says since they’ve been home they’ve been heavily involved in the Heart Kids gatherings, information evenings and coffee groups and have especially enjoyed meeting other heart parents. “Heart Kids has and continues to offer us so much, at every level. Not just for Zoe, but all of us. Important things like helping my husband and I remain connected through all of Zoe’s issues and trying to keep our lives as normal as possible.”