Appeal for kids with heart conditions

Let's see red . . . Ariah Gillon-Smith (9) is the poster girl for the Heart Kids awareness month in Otago. She wants people to show their support by wearing red tomorrow. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

A brave Dunedin girl is asking people to wear red tomorrow to support children battling heart conditions.

Ariah Gillon-Smith (9), of Waverley, said she was “happy” to be the poster girl for the Heart Kids awareness month in Otago, which started on Saturday.

To help raise awareness for the charity, people were encouraged to wear something red today.

Ariah was born with a heart defect called tetralogy of fallot (TOF), a defect that affects four parts of the heart, which causes the blood entering and leaving the heart to mix.

The heart condition was discovered during her mother Sam Gillon’s 20-week pregnancy scan. Ariah had open-heart surgery when she was 4 months old.

She returned to Auckland’s Starship Hospital operating table again in March for more open-heart surgery to replace a valve.

Miss Gillon said the surgery went well but her daughter developed pneumonia a couple of days later.

On returning home, Ariah got sick again and spent a few days in hospital – boosting her total days in hospital to 370 since birth.

She was recovering and hoped to be among the people in Dunedin collecting for Heart Kids on Saturday.

Miss Gillon said Heart Kids helped cover the cost for the flights to get her youngest daughter Miah Gillon-Smith (3) to Auckland in March.

“Where Miah was going to go was a concern but she got to come with us, which was awesome.”

Another valuable service Heart Kids provided was supplying a support worker to attend doctor’s visits.

After the visit, the worker translated the medical jargon, Miss Gillon said.

“All the big words they use can be confusing.”

The charity also regularly holds events to bring Heart Kids and their families together.

“I had never met another kid with Ariah’s condition until I attended a Heart Kids gathering, which is awesome because you can see how they are doing.”

Heart Kids provided “awesome support”.

“If you need them they are always there.”

Donations can be made at any ASB bank branch.