All news & stories

Local hospitals around our region are not equipped to provide the specialist care needed to help very premature or critically sick babies, and many families are suddenly faced with the terrifying reality that their precious baby’s life hangs in the balance. 

Wellington Regional Hospital’s Neonatal Flight Service plays a crucial role in providing specialist care to premature and critically ill babies from across our region.  While our friends at Lifeflight provide the aircraft, it is the skilled team of doctors and nurses from Wellington Regional Hospital who are on-board with the expertise and equipment necessary to deliver the immediate help these infants require after birth and during their emergency dash to Wellington for lifesaving neonatal care.

Baby Koko is a tiny but mighty kiwi battler, and was born in Gisborne Hospital a staggering three months early!  Despite her petite size at just 736 grams, she’s a bundle of joy, and when we meet her she’s having a kangaroo ‘skin to skin’ cuddle with Mum, Waimarie.  You can’t quite see until she wriggles under the tiny Hospi blanket that’s helping keep her warm (lovingly made by a Foundation volunteer), but she’s also hooked up to machines that constantly monitor her vital signs and help her fragile lungs receive the extra support they need to grow and develop.

For Waimarie and Gian, Koko’s arrival was a much anticipated addition to their family.   A routine 20 week scan had hinted at complications, but everyone believed medication had stabilised the risk. However, three months before her due date, Waimarie found herself in excruciating pain and was rushed to Gisborne Hospital by ambulance. What was initially thought to be acute appendicitis turned out to be the imminent arrival of their precious daughter.  Waimarie explained that it was incredibly scary to deliver such a tiny baby, “I’ve never known anyone to have a baby so early and survive, so I was really scared.  I was afraid to look at her as I thought she’d be born dead.”  

Wellington Regional Hospital is a part of the national specialist hospital network and serves a population of 900,000 people from as far north as Gisborne and Taranaki, down to Nelson and Marlborough, and everywhere in between.

When a baby is born too early, time is critical, and the Foundation sponsored NICU Flight Team is on call 24/7, responding to emergency calls from around the country to airlift babies to Wellington; and at only hours old, wee Koko faced just such a precarious journey.  Taken by separate flights, Wai told us, “It was terrifying, I’d just had a baby and I had no idea how she was, it’s only a one hour flight from Gisborne to Wellington, but it really felt like forever. I didn’t even know if she’d survive the flight.  I’m really thankful to the NICU Flight Team’s doctors and nurses for looking after her.” 

NICU Flight Transport Incubator Appeal

With an aging fleet, we urgently need our community’s support to fund a new state-of-the-art Flight Transport Incubator, that acts as a mobile Intensive Care Unit.  Whether through a one-time donation or ongoing monthly contributions, every dollar counts towards reaching the goal of $700,000.

Every baby deserves access to timely, quality healthcare, regardless of where they are born.  Koko’s story isn’t just about beating the odds – it’s about the real power of our wider community to help save and transform lives, and we’re incredibly grateful for your support.

Thanks to Wellington’s amazing NICU Flight Transport Team, Koko is now receiving the round the clock care that she needs to grow and thrive.  Waimarie told us that while it was hard being separated from Gian and her other children, Koko’s surprising everyone and each day brings new progress.   

We thank Waimarie for sharing her story with us and we wish Koko and her family all the very best; and look forward to when she is well enough to return home.