11-year-old Sophie Andrew from Auckland has her struggles, but her little brother’s health problems mean she often feels overlooked. To remedy that, Satan’s Little Helper planned a girl’s day out for her and her mum.
The arrival of a little brother is normally cause for celebration, but for Sophie and her mum Madison, they got more than they bargained for. That’s because Oakley, who is now six years old, was born with an aorta facing the wrong way round – a rare heart condition that’s required one major operation and seven other minor surgical procedures to correct. “Doctors told me they didn’t think he would make birth,” explains Madison. “After he was born, he was given two years to live. He’s six now and specialists have said they don’t need to see him for another year – which is amazing. “He’s such a stubborn little fighter and I wouldn’t change him for anything.” Sophie loves her little brother, but the severity of his health issues mean attention naturally falls on Oakley, which is particularly tough when you learn that Sophie has her own health conditions to deal with. “She’s got ADHD, autism and asthma but often ends up playing second fiddle to her brother, just because he is so sick,” says Madison. “Sophie is a gifted student but very far behind socially and in terms of her maturity. She’s also got huge anxiety about doing sports or extra-curricular activities.” When Oakley was born, Madison and Sophie were living in Melbourne but moved to Whanganui and then Auckland to get Oakley better care and to be closer to family. That instability increased the symptoms of her anxiety, which, combined with a difficult time at school have meant the past two years have been pretty tough. “She’s been bullied a lot and suffers from anxiety and depression as a result,” says Madison, “so I nominated her for Satan’s Little Helper to give her time with me and make some good memories when the focus wasn’t her brother.” When we heard her story, we knew we had to help! That’s why we sent Sophie and her mum for a day on the slopes at Snow Planet, followed by dinner at a Japanese restaurant and got her tickets for the Wētā Workshop Unleashed attraction. “She loves Asian culture and had a ball at the restaurant. Wētā Workshop was amazing because she loved looking at the props and doing things like sitting on the big throne they have there. Again, Snow Planet was brilliant. She loves the snow and she had a great cackle when I fractured my wrist going down one of the slopes. “Whenever we go out and do something, something like that always happens,” laughs Madison. “Me and my two kids are so clumsy!” Aside from the entertainment, Madison says the trips gave Sophie some important respite from school and let her “feel the love”. “She’s a seeker of affection, so it was really good that we could have a day out for just us two. It gave her a much-needed mental health break from school and when she went back, she had a few good school days, which was fabulous to see. “Sophie’s had a rough deal in life but she’s coping with it. She’s got a lot of love to give, so it’s nice to see her given some back.”