Northland teen Evarna Tana is attending her very first camp this week and is really excited.

The 13-year-old from Okaihau is one of around 90 kids who will be in Auckland this week for the Heart Kids Camp - an annual camp for children with congenital heart defects who often can't attend a regular school camp because of their heart conditions.

Evarna's mum Kellyann Dillon said when Evarna was eight days old she was diagnosed with two holes in her heart and a stretched valve.

"Leading up to that day I knew something was not quite right. When I would breast feed her she kept pulling off and you could see she was struggling to breathe and when I told my midwife she said I was worrying about things.


"On the eighth day the midwife came and I was feeding Evarna and she said 'she shouldn't be doing that' so the ball got rolling - next thing there was an ambulance on the door step," she said.

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Suddenly regular nurse visits, and checking the tube which was placed down Evarna's nose into her stomach, became part of Dillon's routine.

When Evarna was 3-months-old the call was made that she would need to undergo open heart surgery at Starship Hospital in Auckland.

"It was an absolute nightmare. Watching her be carried away by somebody and her head was just sitting on the nurse's shoulder just watching me and her father as they walked away - I just lost it."

But Dillon said Evarna recovered really well from that surgery and today you wouldn't be able to tell there were any issues just by looking at her.

Dillon said up until the age of 10 Evarna never played sport as it was too full on and she would end up in pain. When she was 11 she was given the okay to start getting active - but she still gets really tired.

"Sometimes to the point where were have to keep her home because she's wiped out," she said.


Evarna was supposed to attend a school camp about month ago but the week before, Evarna took part in a school sports day and ended up in pain which meant she couldn't go.

So she was looking forward to the Heart Kids camp.

It will be her first time away from mum - other than times she has stayed with family - and her very first camp.

"I'm excited and nervous. I can't wait, and I'm looking forward to meeting new friends," Evarna said.

• For more information on Heart Kids visit