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Winning her battle

Matilda is 27 months earthside but should only have been with us for 24 of those months. Born prematurely, she’s been fighting for her life ever since and now, thanks to Satan’s Little Helper, she’s equipped with an extra weapon.



“We had six calls from neo-natal telling us to get to her bed as quickly as possible to say goodbye. No matter how often it happened, it was still the worst time of my life.”


Dani Prance and Tyler Stills’s daughter Matilda was born at 25 weeks weighing just 723 grams and was placed under the care of Waikato Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where she was put on a ventilator.


Helping or harming?


It was keeping her alive, but there were negative effects. “The ventilator damaged her lungs,” explains Dani. “One lung became larger than the other and started crushing it, then two days later they both collapsed.


“We were in hospital for nearly four months and, to make it worse, there was an MRSA outbreak during that time, so none of our family was allowed in to support Matilda and I. When you look at your baby and they’re grey, pale and not far off dying, and you have no-one to lean on, it gets pretty tough.”


Matilda has a range of conditions that made her first few years a challenge, but despite Matilda’s rocky start, she’s making brilliant progress. She no longer needs to use oxygen at home, has been discharged from her dietician and neurodevelopmental therapists and is making encouraging progress towards having a full set of working lungs.


One way to accelerate that progress is through swimming lessons, but until Satan’s Little Helper came on board and provided a full term of swimming lessons, that wasn’t something Dani could afford.


Loves the pool


“Matilda has no immune system and any germs could land her back in hospital, so being able to take her for lessons with much smaller groups is very important.


“Plus, it’s amazing rehab, as it teaches her to expand her lung capacity and helps her breathe properly. She loves it! She’s at her most happy in the pool and she throws a tantrum if we don’t get her in it quickly enough!”


It’s also helps in other areas.


“She’s meeting other kids in a safe environment, learning how to socialise and trying new things. It’s amazing.”


Matilda has battled for a long time and thankfully she’s slowly coming out of that stage of her life.

“It would be nice to get to the point where we’re fully discharged from all hospital services,” adds Matilda.


You wouldn’t bet against it!

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