A woman who took in her seriously ill grandson after his short life was filled with abuse now faces losing her house due to mounting debt.

Annie - not her real name - cares for her sick baby grandson around the clock.

He is just over a year old but is at the size and development level of a six-month-old.

A feeding tube is attached to his tiny tummy, and his eyes are surrounded by dark circles, although they sparkle with curiosity.


His chest bears the telltale scars of two open-heart surgeries, he has been on life support twice, resuscitated from clinical death once and has endured severe bronchiolitis and repeated admissions to hospital in his short life.

The baby has been removed from his parents, both of whom, Annie says, have severe drug, alcohol and criminal histories.

The baby had to spend 3 months in Starship Hospital after he was removed from his parents' care. Photo / File
The baby had to spend 3 months in Starship Hospital after he was removed from his parents' care. Photo / File

There was abuse and trauma, she says, before authorities stepped in and Annie received the call that would change her life forever.

"I got a call on a Friday, saying that there were two options. Either I would take him, or he would be going into foster care," she said.

"By Monday I was on a plane to Starship, and that's where I lived for three months."

Annie was forced to leave her steady job as a caregiver and never left the baby's side for those months, as he slowly stabilised enough to travel back with his grandmother to her Horowhenua home two months ago.

However, Annie was blindsided when she returned home to discover mortgage payments she had missed while in the thick of the crisis had attracted fees doubling the payments.

Her former husband of seven years, who she she split from two years ago, was demanding a payout under relationship property from the house she already owned and had lived in for years before she met him.

She said he also left her with debts. Adding to the problem, benefit payments for her new circumstances with the baby took weeks to begin.

Despite now having enough income to be able to continue her mortgage payments, she is facing having to sell the home she has lived in for almost three decades as she comes to terms with her new life as her grandson's parent, an exhausting schedule of day and night feeding and caring, and also a gruelling court battle as the baby's parents try and regain custody.

"We live in a bubble," she said.

"Just the slightest cold can land him back in intensive care. We've been home about 11 weeks now, but he's had a couple of stints back in hospital."

Annie said she and the baby bonded quickly, and now he knows her as his mum.

Her relationship with her own son — the baby's father, is gone, destroyed by his methamphetamine addiction and slide into criminality.

She doesn't know how he started on the path to meth — it crept insidiously into his life.

"It's just devastating," she said.

"But he's chosen to stay with [the child's mother] so now they're both tarred with the same brush. Hopefully they'll both be prosecuted."

Annie has several other grown children with whom she has good relationships, including a daughter who lives with her.

She said the time apart and the prospect of selling the home she's always known are very unsettling for her too.

While her daughter has been incredibly supportive and helps with the baby's round-the-clock feeding and medication, the situation has removed any spontaneity from their lives, with everything having to be planned and scheduled.

They also have to be careful who comes into the house in case of germs, and their home has to be kept at a steady temperature and as sterile as possible.

"There's just so much," she said.

"I've had to give up everything."

Annie said giving up the house too would be a massive blow, and she doesn't know where they will live if they have to move out.

Her mortgage is with the Co-operative Bank, which has told her repeatedly there is nothing more they can do, she said.

She said she was in tears on the phone with their credit control team, explaining the circumstances.

"They said surely you were in a motel," she said.

"I was on the ward all the time."

"I've tried to refinance through other banks and I've been told by one lender that [the baby] is a liability," she said.

"That broke my heart."

Co-operative Bank chief executive David Cunningham said the bank would give Annie an extra four months to help resolve her financial situation. Photo / File
Co-operative Bank chief executive David Cunningham said the bank would give Annie an extra four months to help resolve her financial situation. Photo / File

With a future entirely focused on caring for her grandson, who is scheduled for another heart surgery in January, all Annie wants is the stability to stay in her own home to be able to cope.

"In an ideal world, it would be great if the Co-operative Bank could start again on the mortgage," she said.

After being contacted by the Horowhenua Chronicle, Co-operative Bank chief executive David Cunningham said they had looked at Annie's situation and would allow an extra four months' leeway to enable her to resolve things.

"We hope this will remove some of the stress, especially with Christmas fast approaching," he said.

A bank account to help Annie and her family has been set up: Donations can be made to "Help For Annie" (ANZ) 01-0666-0230988-02