When nine-year-old La-Shakarn Lolo's lungs collapsed and his kidneys began failing, his parents knew it was going to be touch and go.
The Wainuiomata touch rugby and wrestling enthusiast was suddenly struck down with a mystery illness, his condition deteriorating so much that doctors placed him in an induced coma.
"He was losing weight so fast," said his mother Molly Tauaneai-Lolo. "It was difficult to see him that way - he couldn't move, couldn't talk, couldn't eat."
La-Shakarn was rushed to Auckland's Starship children's hospital by air ambulance, and spent a week in intensive care.
Doctors later confirmed La-Shakarn's condition as potentially fatal toxic shock syndrome, a rare disease caused by toxins from certain types of bacterial infection.
It was to be months before the once-active youngster was back to his usual sporty self.
Mrs Tauaneai-Lolo said she knew something was wrong at Easter when her usually sweet-toothed son was uninterested in eating one of his favourite foods, chocolate.
Their GP told them to immediately take him to Hutt Hospital. Staff there ordered test after test - meningitis and Kawasaki disease were among illnesses considered - but could not determine what was wrong.
Meanwhile, the health of the pupil from Maranatha Christian School continued to go downhill.
La-Shakarn was put into an induced coma and transferred to Starship.
He spent the next week in intensive care, during which the team of doctors and nurses were finally able to give the family a diagnosis.
Yesterday, the family were full of praise for Starship staff.
"They not only looked after my son, they looked after me as well," Mrs Tauaneai-Lolo said.
All her family and friends would be receiving Starship fundraiser tea towels this Christmas.
- © Fairfax NZ News