Poppy Dixon's first birthday will be spent at home in an against-the-odds survival story over a serious heart condition - with her loving parents paying tribute to a bubbly and brave little girl.
Diagnosed with heart muscle disease, cardiomyopathy, at just 11 weeks old, Poppy's parents Estelle and Nathan Dixon feared the worst for the future of their daughter. But after a miraculous improvement, on Monday they were finally able to take their daughter home after a gruelling 270 days in hospital.
Facing the possibility of a heart transplant just weeks ago, an unexpected turn has seen Poppy discharged by medics just in time for her first birthday.
Tuesday sees Poppy turn one. The first year of her life has proven extremely difficult for her and her family. But relieved mother Estelle said she is in shock to finally be able to have her daughter home and have her family reunited after nine months of upheaval.
"After 270 days, we're out of hospital. We were finally home on Monday and Poppy is no longer sleeping in a metal crib of a hospital but in the colour and comfort of home. It's all very different, it's still sinking in to be honest, but we're all very happy," Dixon said.
"Six months ago everything was really uncertain, Poppy had been at Starship for three months and it was just a period of waiting and seeing if medication was going to improve her heart function.
"We got to a point where everything was stagnant, but at least not getting worse. Then there was a decision with doctors about what to do, we had to make a decision.
"We decided to try and get her off medication to determine whether she was dependant. If she was dependant and showed serious signs of cardiac failure, that would mean we would have to discuss going to Melbourne for a heart transplant."
But instead of the move showing she needed the constant treatment which was taking strain off her heart, Poppy came through the test with flying colours - revealing she is well enough to cope on her own.
Had she not been strong enough, the Dixon's were facing a move from the Waikato region of Dinsdale to an indefinite move to Melbourne, where they would have to wait for a donor heart and a heavy process of a transplant, adding further strain to their story.
"She's coped incredibly well, we and the doctors are so surprised. She seems to be going fro strength to strength since she's come of the medication," Dixon said.
"The condition she had, the odds were initially a one in three chance of survival. I think the reality is worse form that. Babies her age don't really come back from cardiomyopathy.
"They didn't expect her to survive at all."
Instead, the Dixon's - including Poppy's siblings, five-year-old Lily Rose and three-year-old Jack - are able to return to a far more normal daily life which will see them live under the same roof, rather than the last year which has seen months apart from each other for extended stays in Auckland's Starship Hospital.
"It's been interesting to watch Poppy's reaction to being home - because hospital was her home," Dixon said.
"She's such a bubbly personality and she's just getting used to all the colours and comforts that exist outside of a hospital ward.
"She's such an inquisitive little girl, she's just been wide-eyed ever since we got home."
Poppy's long-term future remains a wait-and-see scenario with it unclear how her body will react to sustained absence from clinical care. Dixon said the outlook is as optimistic than they could have hoped for and they are focused on going day by day.
In the short term, Dixon said they plan to spend Tuesday's first birthday celebrations at home with a quiet family dinner. But they are planning a larger celebration to acknowledge the help of friends, family and medical experts.
"We've been incredibly blessed from all sorts of areas and really feel we want to do something to show our appreciation to people," she said.