At four days old, Indianna Tatana had her first of three open-heart bypass surgeries after being born with congenital heart disease.

This month, along with many other New Zealand children, Indianna, who now lives in Whanganui, celebrates the Starship National Air Ambulance and the service they provided her at the time of her surgery.

The service is making its annual appeal to raise $1.5 million to fund and keep the air ambulance in service.

Indianna's mother, Carmen, said luckily the air ambulance was able to provide them with a transfer back to Palmerston North Hospital after Indianna's first surgery.


"We had to spend another week [in Palmerston North Hospital] so we could be closer to home but if we had not had the air ambulance we would have had to stay in Starship longer because she was not able to fly in a commercial flight, so it made a massive difference."

The Starship National Air Ambulance is a lifeline that transfers critically ill children from any hospital in the country to specialist paediatric care at Starship in Auckland and back home if needed.

The flight is crewed with an intensive care unit to monitor and care for children on board.

In 2018, the service made 183 retrieval missions, six of which were from Whanganui Hospital.

New World supermarkets are supporting the service by running a fundraiser throughout their stores, selling limited edition collectible planes for $3 each.

Carmen said they try to do anything they can to help and support the service and told Indianna why they went into New World and purchased the planes.

"As far as her heart goes, she knows she has a special heart.

"We take each day as it comes and live, and whatever is thrown at us we deal with it."


At 7 years old Indiana has undergone two more open-heart bypass surgeries, one at 3 months old and another at 3 years old.

She will eventually need a heart transplant as the disease has caused hypoplastic left heart syndrome, meaning she does not half of her heart - the left side that is the most important side.

But for now, Indianna is a happy, feisty young girl living in Whanganui, and loving school, her mother said.

"We are so grateful [for the air ambulance] because we know of quite a few babies and younger children with the same congenital heart defect as Indi that haven't made it," Carmen said.