Mona Aziz was 20 weeks pregnant when she found out her unborn son had a heart condition that would require him to undergo surgery once he was born.
The news came as a shock for the solo-mother who was still grieving her husband who had drowned near Awhitu after getting in trouble with two of their other children just six weeks earlier.
Little Abdullah Aziz was born at eight months gestation and spent a month in the NICU unit and another month in hospital following surgery on his heart.
It was the first of three operations, one of which would see him later go into cardiac arrest and suffer a serious brain injury that is likely to affect him for the rest of his life.
It's been a trying few years for Aziz who is raising six children, including Abdullah who is unable to walk or talk as a result of his injury.
But the 42-year-old has not been alone - she's also been supported by HeartKids - a charity that provides practical and emotional support for families to help them cope with the daily challenges of living with a child with a heart condition.
"It made a huge difference, it was really good for mental wellbeing having someone outside of the family to talk to...it's just somebody on the outside telling you 'it's okay, you'll get there, especially when there are long stays in the hospital. I was homesick.
"I probably would have been in depression (without them)."
Today, as the charity launches its annual fundraising appeal, Aziz is sharing her story in the hope it will inspire people to dig deep when they see collectors on the street.
"Just contribute as much as you can, they have made a huge difference to my life."
"The amount of work they do with little kids, parents, I think it's quite valuable for families and their mental health," she said.
Aziz said the first two months in hospital with Abdullah were hard as she wasn't able to spend quality time with all of her children and was still learning about her son's condition.
HeartKids staff would visit her daily, offering support, advice and a shoulder to lean on when things became too much.
"They genuinely care. Their support works, they are so calm and collected and gentle and it makes a huge difference - they don't panic as we parents tend to panic."
The newborn was allowed to go home with oxygen when he was two months but was back at three months of age for another surgery.
It was shortly after that procedure that things deteriorated rapidly.
Aziz said her son was confused and crying as he woke from surgery but staff were slow in removing his intubation tube. He ended up struggling to breathe.
"He suffocated and went into cardiac arrest."
A lack of oxygen resulted in Abdullah suffering brain damage and the toddler, who is about to turn three, is unable to walk or talk.
HeartKids continues to support the family - things like family days and regular "Murmur" coffee groups which Aziz always looks forward to.
HeartKids CEO Mark Longbottom said around 12 babies are born each week with CHD and over 550 open heart surgeries take place each year at Starship.
The aim of Awareness Month was not just to educate people about congenital and acquired childhood heart disease (CHD) but raise awareness about the support provided to these families by HeartKids.
He urged people to help the charity to keep helping children and their families.
"HeartKids is the only organisation in New Zealand providing lifelong care and support to heart children and their whānau and as we receive no government funding we rely on the support of the community to keep providing the service we do."
You can help HeartKids to keep helping children and their families during this week's street appeal or by donating online here: HeartKids