Almost half of Armani-John Selwyn's first year of life has been spent in a hospital bed, including two months spent fighting for life after he was born prematurely.
The Rotorua toddler, born 15 weeks early weighing 952g, celebrated his first birthday on January 30 at a small family barbecue just five days after being discharged from his latest eight-day stay in Rotorua Hospital.
Armarni, affectionately called Marni, spent the first two months of his life fighting in Waikato Hospital's newborn intensive care unit before being moved to Rotorua Hospital's special care birth unit.
His time in the latter was spent in the care of hospital staff, separated from his mother who had to make the heartbreaking decision to stay in lockdown with two of her other five children.
Marni also spent three weeks in Rotorua Hospital in November, including three to four days in intensive care.
His mother, Stacey Brell, said it had been a "very hard and scary year" for her and her partner, Anaru Selwyn, with many sleepless nights.
"Marni has been in and out of a hospital pretty much half of his life."
The toddler has been in and out of hospital four times in the past year due to his underdeveloped lungs and regular bronchiolitis problems, she said.
Brell said watching her son, who easily picked up bugs from other people, struggle to breathe and eat was "heart-wrenchingly frightening".
She said they had a big birthday party planned for Marni but due to his having spent days back in a hospital they had to make it a family-only small event for safety reasons.
"I did feel a lot of guilt having to cancel Marni's big birthday lake party but his health had to come first."
Brell said her son's first birthday celebration brought memories flooding back of her crying herself sleep most nights especially when separated from him at 10 weeks old.
Her partner is an essential worker and Brell had to rely on video calls and photos to have interactions with her wee son during his first two weeks in the hospital, she said.
"It seems it was a long time ago but at the same time feels like it just happened yesterday and with everything we have all been through it has brought it all back up again."
Brell said her son's progress was regularly monitored by a child development unit at the hospital and she was so grateful to all the staff for their "amazing" care.
"He is the happiest baby even despite the times when he is in hospital.
"Even the doctors are amazed how calm and happy he is. Marni is a real fighter and he's definitely the strongest human being I have ever known in my life."
Brell said the doctors expect when her son becomes more mobile he will grow out of his bronchial issues.
She said Marni was behind hitting some of the normal milestones for his age but that was expected given his premature start in life and health difficulties.
"Marni is making slow progress and he can now sit up on his own which is a huge thing and he got his first tooth on Christmas Day which is really exciting too."
Now weighing 7.2kg and wearing clothes for 3-to-6-month-olds, her precious son's survival had been a miracle and a huge blessing to her and her family, she said.
"It has been a very hard year, especially on my mental health, but you have to keep soldiering on and that's all any mother can do," Brell said.
"We are so grateful for all the love and support from our families who have always been there to help us whenever we need it."
Brell said seeing other people not taking the Covid-19 requirements seriously was very frustrating because being in lockdown rather than at her son's side was a time she and her family can never get back.
"I urge people to take Covid-19 seriously and to do the right things."