Life-saving surgery a joint effort

MARYKE PENMAN
Last updated 05:00 12/12/2013
Lydia Ko

PRO SUPPORT: North Shore-based professional golfer Lydia Ko with Makine Datete and her son Rickson Yacko, 2, who had open heart surgery at Starship thanks to ROMAC.

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Little Rickson Yacko, 2, has captured the heart of professional golfer Lydia Ko.

The pair met after Miss Ko was announced as a goodwill ambassador for New Zealand humanitarian organisation ROMAC.

Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children provides lifesaving surgery to children from developing countries without access to the necessary treatments.

Rickson and his mother Makine Datete, of Port Vila in Vanuatu, arrived in Auckland on September 1.

They stayed with a host family in Glenfield for 10 weeks as Rickson underwent open heart surgery to fix a congenital heart defect.

Host mother Lisa Dew says it was a rewarding experience.

"I believe we are put on this earth to do good. Being a mum it really touched me. I went through every process with them and could see how traumatic it was."

Mrs Dew has two sons and a daughter and says it is important they grow up with the same values and compassion that she did.

"I was born in Papua New Guinea. My parents were missionaries there for 15 years. I think helping others is very much entrenched in my makeup," she says.

The language of Vanuatu is similar to that spoken in Papua New Guinea so she was able to communicate with Rickson and Makine.

"There was a six-week wait before Rickson went in for surgery. That was really hard, Makine was very quiet and reserved. She was a completely different person after the surgery, she really opened up and was always smiling," Mrs Dew says.

Doctors are thrilled with Rickson's recovery and say he should continue to grow with no complications.

"Within a week of him being in PICU (Paediatric Intensive Care Unit) we went off camping and he was in better condition than when he arrived," Mrs Dew says.

Mrs Dew says she will jump at the chance to host another ROMAC child.

She says the similarities between her home in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu have brought back fond memories of her childhood.

"I have been wanting to go back to Vanuatu for so long. When Rickson and his mum arrived it was like God brought Vanuatu to me."

Go to charityforchildren.org.nz for more information.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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