Eight-year-old Dayton Preston keeps a collection of Transformer toys as mementos for each of the many hurdles he's had to overcome in his short life.
The New Plymouth boy has never had the chance to have the treats other children enjoy because he risks pneumonia and chest infections if he takes food through his mouth.
Dayton was born with several heart defects that required two operations when he was 14 days old.
He suffered a paralysed vocal cord after surgeons tried to remove an artery that was wrapped around his oesophagus.
As a result, he had difficulty talking and for nearly his entire life has needed the help of machines to eat.
His parents, Chantelle Luke and Malcolm Preston, are resigned to the fact their son may never be able to eat normally.
The couple first saw something was wrong with their little boy when he turned blue as Ms Luke was breastfeeding him when he was four days old.
The accumulation of fluid in his right lung meant it nearly collapsed and surgeons told them Dayton had no choking reflex and could not eat or drink properly.
"If he ate he would spike with a really violent temperature and he had to be admitted to hospital," said Ms Luke.
"It used to be two or three times a month as a baby - he had so many chest infections that they used to call him the glow worm because of all the x-rays he had."
Dayton has been auctioning individual pieces of artwork on Trade Me that he completed using syringes used in some of the procedures to help him pay for a dream trip to Universal Studios to meet his hero, Transformer Optimus Prime.
He has made about $300 but needs $10,208 to get himself and his family to Los Angeles.
"It would be a once-in-a-lifetime chance and I know he would love it," said Ms Luke.
"It's like for cancer kids who have cancer beads ... so for all the procedures he has had we have brought him a Transformer, they're like his little beads of courage and he's got quite a few of them."
Mr Preston said Dayton's condition had been challenging and it hurt that his son could not share a meal with them at the dinner table.
They also have to remind family not to give him anything to eat when they're at family gatherings.
"That's hard when you see all the other kids with lollies and stuff," he said.
Ms Luke said Dayton had been in and out of Starship Hospital at least 50 times and he couldn't go anywhere without his feeding machine.
* Dayton Preston was born with several heart defects that needed two operations when he was just 14 days old.
* He has difficulty talking and has needed the help of machines to eat for nearly his entire life.
* He's auctioning artwork to help him for a dream trip to Universal Studios in the United States to meet his hero, Transformer Optimus Prime.