Gift goes right to heart

Nicci Reddy with daughters Caitlin (left) and Madison Frost with the "Heartstart" defibrillator...
Nicci Reddy with daughters Caitlin (left) and Madison Frost with the "Heartstart" defibrillator the family received from Dunedin Public Hospital yesterday. Photo by Linda Robertson.
When Dunedin mother Nicci Reddy says receiving a machine which could save one of her children's lives brings "peace of mind", she does so with conviction.

Her daughter Caitlin yesterday received the first portable defibrillator to be issued by the Dunedin Public Hospital's children's outpatient department.

The machine could provide an electric shock to restart her heart in case of cardiac arrest.

Both of Ms Reddy's children, Madison (4) and Caitlin (3), have from a rare heart condition - Jervell and Lange-Nielsen cardioauditory syndrome - which affects 1.6 to 6 people in 1 million.

The condition causes the cardiac muscle to take longer than usual to recharge between beats.

If untreated, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) could lead to fainting, seizures, or sudden death.

Ms Reddy said the importance of having a defibrillator hit home on New Year's Day, when Madison had a seizure while playing outdoors.

A device had been ordered, and was on the way from the United States when the episode occurred.

Madison has since become one of two children in the country to have an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) installed while under the age of 5.

"We have to be careful of certain foods, like liquorice, which is rich in potassium.

"We also have to be careful at the dentist and make sure anaesthetists are aware of the condition and don't use anything containing adrenaline.

"But kids will be kids, and love playing. You can't wrap them in cotton wool.

"They are great kids, and have a happy life but it has been an interesting ride," she said.

The defibrillator Caitlin received will be used by other children's families after she receives an ICD in the next 18 months.

The $3600 machine was one of two bought with funds donated to the Otago District Health Board by the Otago Service Clubs Medical Trust.

Unit manager Jane Wilson said the department "greatly appreciated" the donation.

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