LYNDON Mclean is only eight months old but he has already been through two open heart surgeries.
His mother, Natalie Harrison, says she was 20 weeks pregnant when doctors informed her that her baby had multiple heart defects.
"I didn't know anything about heart defects and it was a real shock, not just for me but my partner and our family.
"We really didn't know anything about it, but we were reassured by Auckland City Hospital and Fetal Medicine that baby was fine while he was in my tummy and using my heart."
Further complications were identified after Lyndon was born on October 28. He struggled to breathe after the birth and was taken to Auckland City Hospital's Newborn Intensive Care Unit.
He was diagnosed with pulmonary stenosis - a condition in which two arteries of the heart aren't the same size.
"If they were the same size things would have been easy and they would have been able to switch the arteries over, which was the plan.
"All of a sudden the surgical plans were totally thrown out the window, so we really didn't know what was going to happen.
"He had open heart surgery when he was a week old and then he had his second one in March.
"They managed to do quite ground-breaking surgery ... it was one of the most difficult surgeries that they've had to do," Ms Harrison said.
The doctors had told her Lyndon would not have to have another surgery for about a year but would need regular checks for the rest of his life.
Ms Harrison said Heart Kids, a charity, had provided amazing support while Lyndon was in hospital.
"You just don't really know what you're going to need when you're in that situation but to have them there every day was so good. They were incredible.
"Heart Kids has been amazing to us. We have only been [in Rotorua] a few months and we already know Heart Kids here and some other families.
"I don't know what we would've done without them.
Lyndon was growing really well, "like a normal baby", she said.
"We are just really lucky. There's some babies that didn't make it. We are just really grateful.
"He's not going to be an All Black but he might play golf."
Ms Harrison encouraged locals to support the annual Heart Stopper Challenge, a fundraiser for the local branch of Heart Kids on this weekend.
Heart Stopper challenge
The Heart Stopper Challenge involves teams of four to six people plunging into a pool of icy winter-like temperatures for five minutes to represent the ice used in the open heart surgeries.
The challenge will take place on Sunday from 11am to 2pm at the Rotorua Aquatic Centre. To register go the Heart Kids Rotorua Facebook page or www.heartstopper.org.nz.