Tube-eating set to end

Last updated 05:00 26/01/2013
Inara Herdman and big sister Shannon

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Dinners and donations, boar hunts and book stalls, garage sales and Trade Me auctions - these are just some of the ways the North Canterbury community and friends further afield have pulled together to give Rangiora two-year-old Inara Herdman a chance at life.

Thanks to their efforts, she and her family are finally off enext month to an eating clinic in Austria in a bid to give Inara a chance to grow and thrive.

And she was running out of time, says her mother Bonnie Herdman.
''Inara was born unable to eat and has been kept alive until now on goat-milk formula, tube-fed directly into her stomach,'' she says.

''As she grows, that's no longer enough to keep her going, so we had to decide whether to watch her waste away on a machine or take her all the way to the other side of the world to see if we can help her.''
With a goal of $50,000 to get the family to a specialist clinic for tube-fed children in Graz in Austria (which blew out to $70,000 over time) Bonnie galvanised herself, her family and her friends into action, and has been blown away by how many complete strangers have actively stepped in to help as well.

In the wake of all this, the Neonatal Trust, which has also been very supportive, has now asked her to become a national ambassador for other children in Inara's predicament. Bonnie finds that a scary thought, but it won't stop her.

''They want to us to document our progress in Graz and try to learn as much as we can over there that might help others in similar circumstances.

''They also want us to put together some guidelines on going home from hospital with a tube-fed baby, as there is very little information out there and we had to learn the hard way,'' she says.
Most frightening of all, though, is a health sector education role.

''They want me to speak at the next nurses' conference about our journey from birth to Graz, and I'm going to have to learn how to do that, because it's not something that I'm at all confident in. ''I get quite bad anxiety, although having to do all this fundraising has really forced me to come out of my shell.''
Another goal is to lobby the government to step up for families with tube-fed children, as the Australian government does with its own rehabilitation programme.

''There are other families out there doing it just as hard as we are. The Graz clinic has been running for 20 years and the incidence of tube-fed children in Europe is now almost non-existent, because they treat it really early, when the reflexes are still there. ''Things have to change here,'' Bonnie says.

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''We have been given this very special little girl for a reason, and part of that reason is to help others the same way we have been helped.''

While fundraising continues in the form of another garage sale, door-to-door cookie sales, a Trade Me auction of a Crusaders jacket, and a raffle at the Muscle Car Madness Show, the family is booked to leave for Europe on February 15. And they would like to thank everybody who has helped them on their way.

- Fairfax Media


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