A 29-week pregnancy scan left mum Michelle shattered.

She was told she had Lupus, a chronic, life-long autoimmune condition. As she tried to comprehend her own shock diagnosis, doctors discovered her baby girl's heartbeat was frighteningly slow due to a blockage in her heart.

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I panicked trying to take it all in. They said her heartbeat was only 46 beats a minute instead of the normal 140 beats + a minute - I didn't know if my baby would make it.
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Dakota's mum, Michelle

With no family close by for support, it was an agonising time for Michelle. She then learnt her baby would need a pacemaker to survive.

Baby Dakota

At just three days old, baby Dakota was emergency airlifted from Darwin to Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital for life-saving heart implant surgery.

Dakota as a baby

Dakota, now 13, needs a pacemaker for the rest of her life with new devices added each decade. She has ongoing specialist appointments and clinic visits at Royal Darwin Hospital.

DakotaMichelle says Dakota does her best to take her condition in her stride and knows hospital and check-ups are part of life. 

"She's a placid, thoughtful, lovely child and accepts this is her reality," her mum says.

Dakota has to be careful not to overexert herself and knows which physical and everyday activities she can and can't do - like not being able to enjoy Laser Tag or being careful walking through metal detectors to not set off her pacemaker.

Despite these limitations, Dakota swims in the swimming squad at the local pool and loves hip-hop dancing.

Those dancing skills keep Captain Starlight on their toes at Royal Darwin Hospital. Dakota loves to visit the Starlight Express Room in Darwin to play games and make creations with the Captains. 

Dakota loves the Starlight Express Room and always makes time for a visit whenever she’s in for a check-up. It's her place to be herself and have fun with in an otherwise boring environment.

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Hospital is not the 'funnest' place to be, but inside the Starlight Express Room - I always feel cheered up.
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And to Starlight supporters her mum said, "Thank you for your awesome support. We need people like you in the world to give back."

Stories like these are only made possible thanks to our generous supporters. If you'd like to help make a difference for a child, you can donate below.
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