Two Kiwi dads take Father‘s Day to heart
Just in time for Father’s Day, two well-known Kiwi dads are giving their time and passion to an organisation that is literally dear to their hearts.
Basketballer Tom Abercrombie and actor Will Hill are the new ambassadors for Heart Kids, the only not-for-profit organisation dedicated to supporting New Zealand’s heart children.
“Every week in New Zealand 12 babies are born with a heart defect - that is one in every 100 births,” says a Heart Kids spokesperson.
“A congenital heart defect – CHD - is the most common birth defect. There is no prevention nor cure for a CHD. It is also the number one cause of death in babies and newborns.”
Will and his wife Sarah’s second son, Jed, was diagnosed with a number of CHDs including coarctation of the aorta and bicuspid aortic valve disease. He underwent open heart surgery at one year old.
“He is likely to need further surgery as he grows, but for now we’re making the most of having a healthy two-and-a-half-year-old,” says Will.
Tom and Monique Abercrombie
Tom and his wife Monique have three children. Their middle child, Porter, has an electrical defect which causes her heart to stop and pause for varying lengths of time. After she collapsed at home the family spent a month at hospital while doctors tried to identify the problem – as her heart doesn’t have a structural defect. Porter had surgery to install a pacemaker about 18 months ago.
“At each check-up we see how much she is using her pacemaker – it’s a stark reminder of how precious life is,” says Tom.
Both Will and Tom are passionate about supporting other Heart Dads and their families.
“When you have a child with complex medical needs, the family dynamic changes,” says Will. “One parent needs to be able to stay in hospital with your child and the other often needs to keep home life running, especially if you have other children.
“Because Tom and I don’t work 9-5 we’re lucky to be very involved in the day-to-day care, medical appointments and sharing the emotional load as well.”
Tom says that Heart Kids plays a pivotal role in providing practical and emotional support for Heart Families.
“The Heart Kids team was incredibly supportive and reassuring when Porter was in hospital, especially as we found ourselves there so suddenly. They also connected us with other Heart Families which has opened up an incredible network of wonderful families going through similar experiences to our own,” says Tom.
Tom and Will also have advice for other dads in similar circumstances.
“You are not alone,” says Will. “Speak up, join an organisation like Heart Kids and get know others on a similar path. Although I am forever grateful for the support of my other friends, there is no one who will ‘get you’ like another parent with a sick child.”
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” says Tom. “Heart Kids has an amazing support network in place to assist families in all areas of their life. Each Heart Kid and family are in different situations but no matter what, they are equipped to help you through the tough times and offer on-going support throughout your life.”
Heart Kids CEO, Mark Longbottom, is delighted to have two new ambassadors supporting the cause. “Tom and Will have first-hand experience of what it’s like to face the challenge of CHDs. Their personal stories will help us tell more New Zealanders about the vital support and information Heart Kids provides,” says Mark.
Tom says he took on the role to help share the stories of hope and inspiration from the many Heart Kids up and down the country.
“They are the real heroes, and all have their own stories of strength and resilience that deserve to be told,” says Tom.
“When you’ve seen first-hand the bravery and determination of some of these heart kids, it’s humbling like nothing else,” says Will.