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Community, family support straight from the heart

Community, family support straight

Sooner or later life will throw you a curve ball—sometimes those curve balls can be life changing. When that happens, there is nothing so reassuring or comforting as the support of family, friends and neighbours.

Northern Southland beef and sheep farmers Craig and Hannah Drummond know this – they have experienced first hand the collective support of an entire rural community rallying in a time of great need.

Eighteen months ago the couple’s second child, Luke, was born with a serious congenital heart condition—Tetralogy of Fallot with Pulmonary and Major aortopulmonary collateral arteries, just to be specific.

“Effectively it means that all the plumbing is too small so Luke’s not getting enough blood from heart to lungs and back around his body – therefore not enough oxygenated blood,” explains Hannah.

“It was a huge concern initially because it was unknown if he would survive.”

Born five weeks prematurely at Auckland Women’s Hospital, Luke was transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit where he stayed for more than a month.

During that time, Craig and Luke’s four-year-old sister Briar travelled up and down the country more than once a week – grateful for the support from their family.

Transferred to Southland hospital for 10 days via the Starship plane, Luke and Hannah were eventually sent home, with Luke on Oxygen. Then, after four weeks at home Luke had a turn for the worse.

“We had to rush him back to Starship for his fi rst surgery. The surgeon was not confi dent that Luke would make it out of surgery but with a fighting sprit and determination we sent Luke off for his only chance.”

Hannah says that after six tortuous hours the phone rang. Luke was off by-pass and his heart was beating by itself.

“I cannot explain that feeling of elation. We were a long way from being out of the woods but we just sat and talked to Luke and watched our little heart warrior fi ght and take each day head on.”

Luke has since had two more open-heart surgeries, countless trips to Southland Hospital for check-ups and tests, but Hannah says they are lucky. She says the long term is looking pretty good – Luke’s just a normal cheeky little boy.

“He may not be able to follow in his fathers footsteps due to his heart condition – but who knows.”

With more surgery ahead of him, she says the surgeons never like to tell you its all OK – they tell you anything could happen.

Craig says that without a lot of on-farm staff, he and Hannah have been fortunate to have family and friends – people like his parents and brother just turn up and help on the farm.

“When Luke first got sick we had to just pack up and go. We were putting ewes through pre-lamb and my dad and some of the neighbours just sorted it. It’s amazing support from friends, family and neighbours and the local community –we’ve been pretty luck really.”

The Drummond family has farmed at Five Rivers for four generations – well over 100 years.

Briar and Luke are the 5th generation of Drummonds on the land and to live in the 160-year-old homestead. Very much part of the community, Craig is also a volunteer fireman with the local brigade.

“I think the support we got was typical of the old school sheep and dairy farming communities that have been around for a long time,” says Hannah.

“We’ve got some really good friends in our community and really nice people. “Most of those people have been in the district for a long time, just like us.”

She says that the northern Southland community all tends to watch out for each other, wanting to help each other out. “We would have been buggered if we didn’t have all that around us.”

So, the curve balls? Well, there is something of that old New Zealand in rural communities where lending a hand is as natural as the air we breath.

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