'It's a horrific environment' - Parents of young girl who’s spent nearly her entire life in Starship now begging DHB to release her

Peter Bircham and Elane de Moraes Lobo have over the last five years given up their jobs and sold their home to support their daughter's care.

Little Ana Carolina has spent almost her entire life living at Starship's PICU - that's the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit. 

Her parent's biggest battle? Trying to get her home, and it's a hard task when their finances are exhausted.

Ana Carolina was admitted to Starship Hospital in 2013, and she's been there ever since.

"We there for how many days now? 1,650 something?" her parents Peter and Elane muse.

Ana Carolina's mum and dad realised something wasn't right when she was just four and a half months old.

"We noticed her arms and legs started moving a little bit less. One clue was and she was babbling - but moving her mouth and no sound was coming out," Mr Bircham says.

An MRI revealed Guillian-Barre syndrome, which has left her paralysed and unable to breath on her own.

"So there's nothing wrong with her brain, no, nothing at all. It's perfectly functional. It's just her muscles," her dad says.

TVNZ1's Seven Sharp first met Ana-Carolina in 2016 at another birthday.

She celebrated turning three on the rooftop of Auckland's museum. Her first trip outside hospital grounds.

But two years later, she's still here.

"According to hospital's own numbers it costs 1.8 million dollars a year to keep her in PICU," Mr Bircham says.

"The most expensive place in the entire country is where she's trapped."

Peter and Elene have long campaigned to bring their daughter home.

They say an in-house hospital-grade care system would save the DHB around 80 per cent, and get their cognitively-able child out of an incredibly stressful environment.

"It's a horrific environment, you see kids dying all the time, machines, choppers, lights, don't know day or night because it's always the same," Mr Bircham says.

And Ana-Carolina's stay is reaching breaking point.

"It's affected our health, we don't eat properly, don't sleep, don't go anywhere, we have no social life, we have lost our friends," Mr Bircham says.

"It's been a huge financial cost, Elene has not worked for six years, me for three, continually borrowed against our mortgage, working on a plan to get her home.

"Every dollar we've spent has gone nowhere."

Frustrated at the lack of progress, they're now begging the DHB to release her to The Wilson Home - a charitable trust supporting children with disabilities.

They say to keep her in ICU any longer is unimaginably cruel.

"Lately she cries every time she goes back to PICU because she realises there is a world outside," her mum Elene says.

Ana Carolina has spent almost her entire life living at Starship Hospital. Source: Seven Sharp



Meet the Kiwis behind Glory League - technology that films your own B-ball feats

Glory League lets ballers, trash talkers and money callers relive the glory of every amateur and pick-up game they take the court for.

The video platform allows the everyday basketball player the ability to watch their own games and highlight reels.

"There's something special about watching yourself, we don't like to admit it but we all do like to have a little look at ourselves," Glory League Founder Louis Gordon-Latty says.

"Well you can be a bit of a Monday night battler but still feel like a bit of a star with some stats and some highlights."

Cameras fitted to over 60 basketball courts across the country record every game.

The footage, combined with stats recorded live on the bench, creating an NBA style highlight reel for every player.

"You're able to take your highlight and take so much time watching yourself and watching your friends and be able share that on social media on Facebook, with your family with your friends it's the ultimate product for someone who loves basketball."

The platform has over 25,000 users here in Aotearoa.

With plans already in place to take it to Australia and Asia with the ultimate goal of taking it to the states.

"There is the Philippines, there's China the world is our oyster in many ways and we think we've got a product that we can take to the world," Glory League CEO Grant McCabe says.

The technology will allow you to record your winning moves on the basketball court. Source: Seven Sharp

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Most read story: 'Seriously we just go back to survival mode' - High living costs drive Kiwis back across the ditch

Note: This story first ran on Wednesday May 9

Kiwi families who have moved back to New Zealand after living in Australia are struggling with high living costs and low wages that could push them back across the Tasman.

Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders have moved to Australia to try and build better lives for themselves, but the move back home is proving difficult for some.

Rochelle Palmer met her Kiwi husband John in Brisbane and they moved to Whenuakite in the Coromandel four years ago.

"We were caught up in the rat race of busy city life of suburban life - having two boys we thought New Zealand might be a great place to let them be free."

In Australia, Ms Palmer could afford to be a stay-at-home mum - but in New Zealand she split her time between her four sons and working three cleaning jobs.

Her husband John is a mechanical engineer and works full time, but has often struggled to find work in their small community.

Mrs Palmer said she was shocked at the low wages and the high cost of food, power and rent in New Zealand.

"There were moments - and there still are every now and then - times when we have to go 'actually, how are we doing food shopping next week and how are we going to pay the power that's three weeks overdue?'.

"Seriously we just go back to survival mode of 'okay, what don't we use that can we sell to pay the power bill or to buy food next week?'."

Jan Stewart lived in Brisbane for 18 years with her husband Ken after both were made redundant from their jobs in Whangārei.

Last year, they retired and decided to move back to Whangārei, but Ms Stewart said she was shocked to find how much New Zealand had changed.

"Our home over there (in Brisbane) was worth $500,000 - we'd pay a million dollars for the same type of home here in Whangārei."

Another reason Ms Stewart was looking to return to Australia was the poor standard of healthcare she said her husband had received so far.

After being unable to walk, she said Ken was rushed to the hospital only to be discharged a short time later.

"I've picked him up and brought him back home only to find that I've had to take him back early hours in the morning and for them to realise he had five cracked ribs and a cracked lung."

Carmen Brown has lived in Australia for the past 23 years - apart from a brief two-year stint when she returned home to New Zealand.

But it was a stint that made her family quickly hop back across the ditch to Perth.

"It was just struggle street from the time we got home, we couldn't believe how much things were costing," Mrs Brown said.

"Power bills we get them two to three months and pay less than you do a month back home."

Ms Brown currently works part-time at a supermarket and earns $26 per hour and her family has been able to build their own home with grants from the Australian government.

Although she'll always call the Taranaki region home, she said she couldn't see her family moving back to New Zealand unless they could live mortgage-free.

"I loved growing up in New Zealand, I wished my kids had that kind of experience but Australia has been wonderful for them too."

Recent statistics show more Kiwis are making the jump across the ditch.

In the year to March 2018, 20,000 people left for Australia while just 15,000 returned home.

- By John Boynton