Luke Drummond loves to sit on his dad's knee while he drives the tractor around the farm. He also loves to drag his toy trains through the mud.

Both are miracles.

The 3-year-old's mum, Hannah Drummond, remembers the horror of being told her precious baby boy had just 12 hours to live.

"It was terrifying. I just couldn't accept it. This was my baby boy we were talking about."

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Luke was born with a congenital heart defect, which was later discovered to be Fallot's tetralogy - a condition that obstructs the flow of blood into the lungs and diverts it to the aorta.

From birth, Luke's prognosis was largely unknown.

The warrior child has had four open-heart surgeries and keeps on fighting. Photo / Supplied
The warrior child has had four open-heart surgeries and keeps on fighting. Photo / Supplied

He spent two months at Starship's Newborn Intensive Care Unit in Auckland before he was given the green light to go home.

Two weeks later, after just having met his granddad, Luke's oxygen levels dropped dramatically while at home on the farm.

Drummond had to drive Luke an hour to Invercargill Hospital because an ambulance would have taken too long. He was admitted to be monitored overnight.

"My mum, who used to be a nurse, came in and she said 'Hannah, I don't think he's going to survive the night' and I said 'well he has to'," Drummond said.

"That night I slept with him on my chest and just hoped like hell this little baby was going to survive."

Early the next morning, the nurses told Drummond that Starship's Air Ambulance was on its way to take Luke and her to Starship.

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"I walked out to the corridor and I saw them coming and I swear I must have looked like I was at a birthday party yelling 'They're here'. I was just so relieved - it felt like it was just in the nick of time."

Southland mum Hannah Drummond with her precious son Luke. Photo / Supplied
Southland mum Hannah Drummond with her precious son Luke. Photo / Supplied

Luke's older sister, Briar, was able to fly on the Starship Air Ambulance and hold her brother's hand and kept her mum calm. His dad, Craig, had to catch a commercial flight and didn't know if his boy would be dead by the time he landed.

After arriving at Starship's Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, Drummond's relief quickly faded when she and Craig were taken into a quiet room to be told their "full of spirit boy" had just 12 hours to live.

"We were given two options - spend his last hours holding him and making memories, or the surgeons could try to operate but the chances of him surviving were very slim.

"And I just said we have to try."

Against all odds, their "warrior child" pulled through and has fought every day since.

Though doctors were preparing the family that Luke would likely be in Starship for Christmas - which was still three months away - he was discharged in less than a month.

Come August, Luke will be celebrating his fourth birthday - a remarkable milestone initially thought to be near impossible.

Drummond believes wholeheartedly that if it hadn't been for Starship's Air Ambulance service her son would not be alive.

Starship's Air Ambulance service got to Luke
Starship's Air Ambulance service got to Luke "just in the nick of time". Photo / Supplied

"Words don't go far enough to express how grateful we are for Starship and its air ambulance. We got there literally just in the nick of time."

Since that terrifying month, Luke has had three more open-heart surgeries and three cardiac catheter procedures, plus plenty of other tests - but still he manages to get out on the farm, play with his older sister and "keep charging".

"We are just so happy he survived."

The Starship Foundation is raising funds this June to help keep the Starship National Air Ambulance service flying.

Dr John Beca, Starship clinical director, Medical and Surgical said the Air Ambulance was vital as accidents and illness can happen to our children anywhere in New Zealand.

"Starship has New Zealand's only dedicated paediatric intensive care unit, and any child requiring anything more than short-term intensive care comes to Starship.

"The Starship National Air Ambulance service ensures that any child, regardless of where they are, gets the care and treatment they need."

About Starship's National Air Ambulance service:

• The Starship Foundation raises $1.5 million a year to help keep the Starship National Air Ambulance service flying.

• It operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to collect children from hospitals around New Zealand in urgent need of specialist treatment at our national children's hospital.

• On average the service is needed by a child and their family every 48 hours.

• Last year, 194 retrieval missions took place, across 20 regions from Invercargill to Whangarei.