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Couple win Lottery prize on golden anniversary

We always enjoy telling people they’ve won a prize in our Lottery but breaking the news to Neil and Joan Kirby was particularly memorable.

On the day we called Neil and Joan to say they'd won a two-night escape to Rotorua in Lottery 91, the Porirua couple were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

“You can imagine our surprise and pleasure!” says Neil. “It was a fantastic addition to our anniversary to win the Heart Foundation Lottery auto-buyer prize.”

The trip north will be a welcome rest after what’s been a tough start to the year for the couple.  

“I was in the Southern Cross Hospital on January 20th to have a total knee joint replacement. So you can understand why we are overjoyed at the opportunity to relax and take it easy after all that has happened during the last three months,” Neil explains.

The Kirbys began supporting the Lottery back in 2006, after Neil went through his own heart problems the previous year.

For months he’d been experiencing spells of breathlessness while playing golf and walking. He was eventually sent in for tests which revealed a severe blockage in his coronary artery.

He had three stents inserted and, although he was soon back playing golf, problems arose again four months later.

“The feeling was nausea, saliva build-up in my mouth and slight shortness of breath.”

Further blockages were discovered and more drastic action was required - Neil was quickly booked in for quintuple bypass surgery.

Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse because, not long after surgery, he was also diagnosed with a type of cancer called myeloma.

“After the initial shock of learning I had a terminal disease, I threw it on the backburner and told the family I was going to live life to the full. Here I am 10 years down the track still surviving.”

Through it all, Neil’s family have been hugely supportive. His son Mike raised over $500 for the Heart Foundation as a Heart Racer during Wellington’s Shoe Clinic Harbour Capital Marathon in June 2006.

It was at this time that the family began supporting the Heart Foundation Lottery.

“I most certainly would encourage all Kiwis to support the Heart Foundation as you never know when you may require the services and help available,” Neil says.

“I had no idea for at least nine months that I could have had a fatal stroke/heart attack as the symptoms I presented were only for a few minutes and I recovered each day.

“I am most thankful for the skills and repairs that I received and thoroughly enjoy every day that I wake to see the sun shining.”