Walking the Talk

For families like Jennifer Corbin’s, whose son has  a heart condition, external support from charitable organizations is invaluable.

Fundraisers such as Treadathon, hosted last week by Jetts Fitness NZ, in which participants pay to walk on a treadmill, mean charities can support the Corbins.

QUALITY TIME: Jennifer Corbin with 4-year-old Finn Photo: Nancy EL-Gamel
QUALITY TIME: Jennifer Corbin with 4-year-old Finn Photo: Nancy EL-Gamel

Manager of Jetts Fitness in Te Awamutu, Sarah Tunnicliffe, says Treadathons are a strong awareness-raiser.

“You just see the photo on the flyer of the little fellah… imagine seeing your own baby with a scar like that.”

Jennifer Corbin is one mother who does not have to imagine. She has seen the scars first-hand.

Her son, Finn, had three open-heart surgeries before he celebrated his fourth birthday.

“He went through his first open-heart surgery when he was four days old and consequently we found out, after his heart surgery, that he had three major airway conditions as well. At six-weeks-old, we were told to turn him off and let him go.”

Luckily, a doctor decided to try a new procedure on Finn, which gave him another chance at life.

“There’s no cure for Finn but his heart works on a day-to-day basis. They’ve re-plumbed him so he can essentially live day-to-day.”

It hasn’t been easy on the family, who have four children under the age of six, as Finn has already suffered two strokes and frequently ends up in hospital with pneumonia and bronchiolitis.

“He’s our miracle baby really. All the doctors said he wouldn’t walk, talk or eat and he’s proved them all wrong.”

Heart Kids NZ offered the family help when Finn was in intensive care and has been a presence in their life ever since.

They gave physical, emotional and monetary support to Jennifer as she looked after Finn and her oldest son, Oliver, who was 18-months-old at the time.

“They became Finn’s other grandparents really. They were huge in our lives when Finn was in hospital. I think it’s really hard when you have a kiddie that is that sick, not everyone gets it.

“So Heart Kids is really amazing because they understand. They’ve always been around, just to support us.”

The organization would help fly Jennifer’s husband up to the hospital every other weekend, as well as give the family trips to the zoo and food and petrol vouchers.

“If they don’t have sponsors like that [Jetts Fitness] then what they do for families like us wouldn’t be possible.

“They just tried to make your life as normal as it could be in a really abnormal situation. Without them it would have been a lot more difficult.”

The family wanted to thank all those who participated in the Treadathon and donated money towards Heart Kids New Zealand.

“We want to just say thank you so much for everything you guys are doing for us. It’s huge – it  means that families like us can get through the struggles of having a child like Finn.”

Twelve babies are born every week with congenital heart defects in NZ and Heart Kids New Zealand is the only charity that supports those affected by a congenital heart defect or an acquired childhood heart condition.

Charitable gym goers in Te Awamutu have raised more than  $500 for Heart Kids NZ, while the total raised by Jetts Fitness New Zealand is currently at $29,000 and rising.

The annual Treadathon aims to keep at least two treadmills running, in each of it’s participating gyms, for 12 hours throughout the day.

The runners (and walkers) donate $5 to contribute half-an-hour of their time on the treadmills.

Sisters Hayley and Carmen Rust did their bit to keep the treadmills going and raise money in Te Awamutu on Monday.

“It’s good, good fun. It’s a good cause. Jetts is doing a good thing and we want to help out,” said Hayley.

“And it’s only half-an-hour,” said Carmen, “I thought it was going to be so much worse.”

They didn’t know of the charity until they signed up to the Treadathon at Jetts.

“But from what we have heard,” said Carmen, “it’s pretty good. I think every little bit helps. I could do another half hour!”

Rob Lutter, CEO of Heart Kids NZ, said, “We are thrilled to be Jetts’ charity of choice and to be part of this exciting event.

We hope lots of Kiwis choose to take up this fun, easy fitness challenge to help the many heart kids who, by no choice of their own, face the lifelong challenges of their heart conditions.”