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Celebrity News

K'Lee reveals why this is the birthday they didn't think they'd see for baby girl Honour

After a terrifying start to life, the Mai FM radio star
celebrates her daughter Honour’s miracle milestone

By Cloe Willetts
It was a Monday morning last August when Mai FM radio host K'Lee received a frantic call at work from her partner, who screamed down the phone line that their baby daughter Honour had turned blue
and stopped breathing.
Hearing her other four kids crying in the background, the Dancing With The Stars NZ contestant told him to get the oxygen machine and call an ambulance, before she rushed home from the studio overcome by fear, knowing her precious little girl was again clinging for life.
Five months later – after a harrowing beginning that saw Honour arrive almost 12 weeks early, then nearly die from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and later a common cold – K'Lee's youngest girl
is miraculously happy, healthy and celebrating her first birthday this week.
"My partner Lama got the oxygen tank the hospital had given us and the nasal cannulas, and was ready to start giving Honour CPR because she started getting floppy, losing all colour," recalls K'Lee, 38, remembering the day she sped along the Auckland motorway to get home to her girl, who was struggling to breathe after catching a cold.
"Her eyes were rolling back. My eldest daughter Iliana, who's 14, called the ambulance and was amazing. I got there as they were loading Honour in. Again, like a trouper, she fought through it."
K'Lee with fiancé Lama with Honour's doting siblings (from left) Kahuriki, Naila, Kaylam and Iliana
Honour – whose proud mum describes her as having "the heart of a lion" – was born at 29 weeks and spent the first three months of her life in Auckland City Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.
"When I did the usual early pregnancy tests with Honour, they said there was a chance she could have Down syndrome, which was hard," reveals K'Lee, also mum to Kahuriki, 13, Kaylam, seven, and Naila, three. "We had to wait ages to get tested and then almost three weeks for the results."
Despite being given the all-clear, she and Lama, 38, still had a hard road ahead – when K'Lee went to hospital for bleeding, she was told she was in early labour. Although the couple were excited about the news of meeting their little girl, the anticipation was quickly replaced by worry when they realised that she wouldn't be fully developed.
"Doctors helped to stop my labour and contractions, so she could stay in there a while longer, but three days later, they realised my waters had broken and were slowly leaking, so Honour was losing fluid around her," remembers K'Lee. "I started having really strong bleeds and I was only allowed to leave the hospital to get a coffee from the café, then walk back to my room. I was monitored all the time."
Left: premature baby Honour was "so tiny and see-through" says K'Lee. Right: fighting off another crisis in hospital
On Waitangi Day last year, while watching Stan Walker sing at the One Love festival from a laptop in her hospital bed, K'Lee rolled over and heard a loud pop. She recognised a feeling wave over her stomach and asked the midwife if it was possible for her waters to break twice. "She said sometimes they can and went to get me some Panadol, then another midwife was sent to check on me and noticed I wasn't myself," the former pop singer tells. "She called the doctor, who examined me, then said I was in labour and the baby was coming that night. I said, 'Don't be silly – it's 11.30pm!' but he was right."
After quickly having her arm stretched out and injected with an IV, K'Lee called Lama and told him to come straight to the delivery unit, where he arrived just in time to see his daughter born after two pushes.
"Honour let out this massive roar of a scream, which was great," K'Lee tells Woman's Day. "I was so relieved but in shock because it happened so fast. Her arms and legs were the size of our fingers, and she was 1300 grams – so tiny and see-through. We had to get our heads around what the next three or four months would mean because she was so early."
A cake fit for Mum and Dad's little princess
Since Honour was born prematurely, she had chronic lung disease and a common cold was life-threatening, so K'Lee had to leave her baby in hospital just as New Zealand went into its first lockdown, with Honour's new siblings only allowed to meet her via videocall.
"I had to go home with an empty car seat and I was still dealing with that when we went into lockdown, knowing these neonatal babies are extremely vulnerable," says K'Lee. "But COVID helped in terms of us being able to be home with the kids and not having to juggle sending them to school, so it took that stress off."
Then last August, just weeks after Honour was allowed home for the first time, she caught RSV from her sister, who contracted it from daycare. She spent another five weeks in hospital, where fortunately her fragile body eventually beat the virus.
"She stopped breathing several times and we were scared, but the intensive care unit was amazing and they did everything they could to try to keep her comfortable," tells K'Lee. "It was then that we realised our friends are really our wha-nau because people from work and our gym really rallied around to support us, over and above anything we expected."
Honour – whose adored great-grandmother Te Rina "Joan" fought through bone cancer to hold her in NICU for two hours, before passing a month later – will have regular tests to monitor the health of her lungs. Recently, however, when she has caught a couple of colds, she didn't need antibiotics, oxygen or even a hospital visit.
From the minute her determined daughter was born, K'Lee says Honour knew what she wanted and made it known with her lungs. "She was like, 'Don't put that tube there,' or, 'I don't want to eat right now or I'll spew it up!" the star laughs.
"She has always been quite vocal and very cheeky. When we're telling her not to do something, she gives us a side-eye, giggles and does it anyway."
For her first birthday, due to COVID restrictions, K'Lee has planned an intimate celebration at home with loved ones. They'll celebrate Honour's struggle of growing from a very sick baby into a little girl who loves Marmite toast, strawberries, her siblings and attempting to climb on anything. "I feel like I was pregnant, blinked, then somehow had a baby – and now I've woken up and she's one," says K'Lee, who got engaged to Lama during a family camper-van trip to Taupo- in 2020.
After all the setbacks, K'Lee's crew is ready to party!
"The most recent lockdown in Auckland, which went on for more than 90 days, was the best thing that could've happened for Honour because it gave her time to heal, grow and get stronger."
Watching her girl reach milestones brings K'Lee the most joy – whether it's fighting a cold by herself, with no medical intervention, or having a new tooth pop through.
"Honour has been knocked back again and again, but she's been feisty from the minute she was born and she's smashing life," K'Lee grins. "I know she's going to be someone amazing and a force to be reckoned with."

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