At 14, he was misdiagnosed as having flu when in fact he had rheumatic fever, a disease endemic in Pacific Island communities.
As a result of the damage to his heart he was rushed to hospital. Since that time Andrew has had six open heart surgeries, a record anywhere. He has spent so much time in hospital that he says he grew up there, experiencing tender and expert care from doctors and nurses but also enduring appalling racism.
Purple Heart is the story of his hospital years, his clashes with his parents’ traditional attitudes, the wisdom he learnt from his fellow patients and the medical miracles performed on his heart by famous surgeon Alan Kerr.
It’s the story of growing up a Pacific Islander in Auckland, a reflection on the bad old days when schools made Pacific Island children anglicise their names and hospitals did not have translators, an insight into the inter-generational tensions in Pacific Island migrant families and also a testimony to deep friendship, boundless love and bucket loads of humour.