In 1980, Linda Davies and Michelle Mann met in Greenlane* Hospital. Their newborn babies were suffering from major heart problems, and sadly both children died in 1981. From their experiences, Linda and Michelle realised there was very little written information for parents of a heart child and they felt a book was needed.
When they left hospital Linda and Michelle spent a great deal of time finding information and surveying other families with a heart child. In 1983 the book "Heart Children" was published and made available free to parents of children who had a heart condition.
While they had set out only with the intention of writing a book, Linda and Michelle soon found themselves acting in a much needed support role to other families "going through" Greenlane Hospital. Over a period of time, as families returned to their own part of New Zealand, a network of support groups was established.
This network was co-ordinated by the Auckland group who formalised themselves as Heart Children Incorporated in 1984. The organisation continued to grow and in August 1994 a national board was elected. A new constitution was adopted in 1995 and the organisation renamed Heart Children New Zealand Inc.
Advances in medical and surgical techniques over the years mean that more adults are living with a congenital heart defect (CHD) than children. Heart Children New Zealand responded by embracing this growing group of heart adults and extending its support to heart children throughout their lives. In 2010, Heart Children became @Heart Inc, the umbrella brand of Kids@Heart, Teens@Heart, Adults@Heart and Families@Heart. The rebrand aligned the organisation with its new commitment "Supporting heart kids through life".
In 2014, the organisation changed its name to Heart Kids New Zealand, marking an exciting development for this long-standing organisation.
Integral to Heart Kids' founding principle of peer-to-peer support is its network of affiliated branches and support groups. They work together with the National Office to deliver programmes and services.
Visit our Local Branches for your nearest group.
Left: Michelle Mann and Linda Davies,founders of Heart Children and co-authors of the book cutting the cake at the 15 year celebration of Heart Children New Zealand in Auckland.
*In December 2003, the Paediatric Cardiac Unit was relocated from Greenlane Hospital to Ward 23B at Starship Children's Hospital as part of the Auckland District Health Board's health delivery plan and the building of the new Auckland Hospital. Heart Kids' work continues on in its support to families in the same way as when the PCU was housed at Greenlane Hospital.