Whānau Āwhina Plunket is a charity, and a trusted, experienced service provider for families and their tamariki - we see 80% of Aotearoa New Zealand’s newborns every single year. We’re focused on building relationships with caregivers and supporting them to give every child the best possible start in life. 

The special relationship between māmā Sian and her Plunket nurse, Amy*, is an incredible example of how Plunket kaimahi (staff) can connect with whānau. Amy had been Sian’s Plunket nurse with her firstborn, Amelia. So Sian was delighted to have her trusted nurse return when second daughter, Lottie, came along.

In that first check, Amy identified a tell-tale breathing issue in Lottie. She was drawing in under the ribs, and her general breathing pattern was atypical. Sian knew in her gut that something had been off and had been eagerly awaiting the appointment.

Amy sprung into action, helping Sian and husband Matt pack a bag and get Lottie to the hospital as quickly as possible.

Sian trusting both her instincts and Amy’s advice quite literally saved Lottie’s life.

“If I hadn't gone and got help right then, I don't know if Lottie would have even made it through the night,” says Sian.

Admission to the hospital began a long journey for Lottie and her whānau. At times, Matt and Sian were told to prepare themselves for the worst.

“It was absolutely terrifying. At one point, she had to go under general anaesthetic and they told us she might not wake up. After an hour clicked over, I knew I just had to prepare for it not going right.”  

Thankfully Lottie did wake up. She was eventually diagnosed with bilateral vocal cord palsy. This means that her vocal cords do not move in a typical way, which impacts breathing, speaking, and swallowing.

Four weeks after her first admission, Lottie was able to go home. Sian and Matt now had to learn how to care for their tiny daughter who required oxygen and a feeding tube.

When the family was settled back in at home, Nurse Amy was quick to check in, but also quick to step back; because she knew the family so well, Amy could assess what and who they needed, and when. 

“She knew we’d be busy, and I really respect Amy for giving us that space,” says Sian. “She did make it clear that I could ring her anytime and she would come. And she was still there when I had questions. Amy helped me a lot.” 

Being at home, caring for a sick baby with a high level of needs, was challenging. PlunketLine became an additional source of help and hope for Sian – not just for advice, but for reassurance as well.

“I called a lot with Lottie,” remembers Sian. “I think my fear became quite bad and I had anxiety about her sleeping because we found her unresponsive multiple times. So, if I thought she was starting to go downhill, I would ring PlunketLine to check if it was something I needed to worry about or not.”

Lottie is now a happy and thriving three-year-old. She still has things that she struggles with, like being as active as her big sister, Amelia. But she is learning her limits and according to her mum, it doesn’t stop her from being a typical toddler!

Sian reflects on her time with Plunket and specifically with Nurse Amy. 

“Plunket really is a life-saving service,” she insists. “They are amazing. I don't think that Lottie would be here without our Plunket nurse. Amy gave me the fire to advocate for Lottie.

The trusting relationship between whānau and their Plunket nurses can save little lives. We must continue seeing as many newborns as possible - where and when they need us most. With your support, we can keep helping children like Lottie and Amelia thrive.

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*We have not used the nurse’s real name as she no longer works for Plunket.