When baby Mavis Cawte turns 1 next week, it will be a cause for celebration in more ways than one.

Mavis was born with a narrow pulmonary artery, which restricted blood flow, and a hole in her heart, and the first year of her life has been stressful for Dunedin parents Sheryl and Hayden.

Mrs Cawte said her little daughter had all the “plumbing” in place but it was “plumbed in wrong”.

After being told of the condition while Mavis was in utero, Mr and Mrs Cawte did not initially know if the condition was survivable.

“It was pretty scary, to say the least,” Mrs Cawte said.

The risk to Mavis was so great that Mrs Cawte was flown to Auckland to give birth in Starship Hospital.

After Mavis was born, doctors told Mrs Cawte there was no immediate threat but the child would have to be monitored over the coming months.

Mr and Mrs Cawte and Mavis stayed in Auckland for a week before coming back to Dunedin.

Then, just six weeks after Mavis’ birth, it was back to Auckland for an initial surgery.

They spent three weeks in Auckland on that occasion.

Waiting to hear about Mavis’ progress was stressful. Mrs Cawte said she went into “survival mode”.

“You just go through it [because] that’s what you’ve been dealt. You go into the mode of survival.

“They [doctors] said ‘She needs this operation’ and we said ‘OK, well we trust you’.”

Mavis returned to Auckland for full open heart surgery at nine months old. Surgeons closed the hole in Mavis’ heart and expanded her pulmonary artery so blood flowed more easily.

Through it all, Mr and Mrs Cawte stayed at Ronald McDonald House.

Accommodation was provided and food was available which helped to reduce stress levels, Mrs Cawte said.

“A weight was lifted off our shoulders.”

After her experience and the help that was offered to her family, she encouraged people to donate to Ronald McDonald House.

Mavis, whose birthday is on March 26, has recovered well from her operation and her mother said she was “pretty much fixed”.

“Now she’s just like any other little girl.”

To support Ronald McDonald House, go to