Rory Gardiner's Webpage

15, Mar, 2010

Monday 15th March 2010


I'm going to chip away at our blog on Rory's website as there is so much to tell.  I cannot get through more than a few days at a time so there will be a number of instalments this week. 

Friday 5th

There was a fair amount of nervous tension in the house so Sean, Sam and I started the day with a run/ride to take off the edge.  We were on the road south by 9.30am, accompanied by Grannie Gardiner, and arrived at RM House in Auckland at lunchtime.  We were lucky to get a room in the House for the night (Rm 816).  In the afternoon Sean and I spent two hours at Starship while Rory undertook a preliminary Neuro-psychological assessment (a 'screen') with Dr Katherine.  The assessment took twice as long to complete as it should have, so it resulted in a brief intense conversation with Dr Katherine afterwards.  I don't want to go into detail about the results as I will elaborate when I get her report, but the key issue for Rory is speed.  He is working at half the speed of his peers as a result of the treatment he received last year.  Hopefully this will improve the further away from treatment he gets.  Pushing him to work faster will tire him quickly and he will focus on only the first task to complete, and miss out on all which comes afterwards.  Any learning he does will occur in the morning.  We have been told to focus on 1) Attendance 2) Socialisation 3) Working to his speed this year.  Dr Katherine told us child cancer patients essentially miss two years of school, the year of treatment and the year following.  Sean and I were shocked and overwhelmed by what we heard at the meeting, although not totally surprised.  It was unpleasant and frightening to hear about what Rory is likely to experience but we knew cancer was a life long affliction.  Dr Katherine informed us the thing which has the greatest impact on Rory's success in life is family functioning, and this includes extended whanau i.e. friends, teachers, coaches.  This gave us some comfort as I know everyone in Rory's life goes the extra mile for him.  We are fortunate for this.  While we were at Starship Grannie Gardiner and Sam went for a walk in the Domain.  At 3.45pm we met with Oona from Make a Wish to go over the final details of our trip.  Oona did an amazing job bringing it all together.  Thanks Oona.  She informed us Make a Wish NZ granted over 160 wishes last year, and 30 trips to the Gold Coast are planned for sick children this year, all thanks to the generosity of sponsors.  I am continuously blown away by what people will do to help. 

Saturday 6th

We had a free day in Auckland so there was much debate as to what to do.  We took Grannie Gardiner down to visit the Auckland Botanical Gardens where we stretched our legs, fed the ducks, and dodged light showers.  Rory was keen for a visit to Butterfly Creek as Sam and Grannie hadn't been before.  It was hot and humid in the butterfly houses and it is always a wonder to have them fly close around you.  The boys were fascinated by the two large crocodiles, and Rory enjoyed sitting by the white rabbit stroking his fur.  After lunch we headed back to RM House, packed our gear and drove to the Hyatt Hotel.  It was posh!  A porter carried our bags to our three adjoining rooms.  Grannie and the boys had a rest while Sean and I dropped the car at Koru parking at Auckland airport.  One of our guardian angels, Lyn, picked us up from the airport and gave us a ride back to town.  It was great to see her and it was non-stop chatter as we exchanged news.  Lyn raised an interesting point - we are continuously given information (and advice) about Rory but at the end of the day he is our son.  We know him better than anyone, and it is up to us to decide what is best for him, now and in the future.  It is easy to forget we are able to make choices.  The boys were happy to see Lyn (who as usual had hidden presents ... thank you Lyn ... the drink bottles were used every day, and the ride was much appreciated).  It was into the pool and spa after Lyn left.  Rory and I loved the HOT spa pool turning on the bubbles and turning pink like two crayfish.  I definitely think the four of us raised the tempo in the pool/spa/therapy area of the hotel!  We decided on room service for tea as it was too late for the boys to go out.  It arrived on a fancy wheeled table with a heating unit.  It was like being on a reality tv show!  We all had a good sleep as the beds were very comfy. 

Sunday 7th

We were all up early.  Rory started the day with a luxurious bath (he has made me promise not to put the photo on the website)!  As we were checking out the boys were looking out the front windows of the Hyatt for the shuttle bus to the airport when a black limo arrived.  We suggested to them there might be someone famous in it so they were very interested.  Then the driver came up looking for the Gardiners!  The boys were very excited to be travelling to the airport in luxury.  We got a number of stares on the way.  We received wonderful treatment by the Air NZ staff.  We were able to check in straight away avoiding the long queues.  A staff member guided us through the check in process (Sean and Grannie received an extra scan) and took us to the Koru Lounge where waited and had a complimentary buffet breakfast.  The attendant then escorted us onto the plane ahead of the other travellers.  We were able to meet the Pilot and Co-pilot, and the boys went up into the cockpit to check out how the plane was flown.  They gave us a whole row to ourselves so we had two window seats, and one spare seat and could stretch out.  The Chief Attendant welcomed Rory, Sam and our family over the loud speaker and the passengers clapped.  We all enjoyed the take off and you could see Dargaville and Kai Iwi lakes as we flew north.  The boys loved the head sets, tv screens and remotes.  They watched movies on the way over; Fantastic Mr Fox and Return to Witch Mountain.  We were served lunch on the flight, and the boys got to hand out the sweets (Rory helped flight attendant Kory!).  After leaving New Zealand at 10am we arrived in Coolangata airport at 10.30am (we had o put our watches back three hours).  It was hot, very humid and a totally different landscape.  Sean's new NZ passport didn't work so it was taken away to be scanned separately.  We caught an shuttle to Magic Mountain apartments at Miami/Nobby Beach on top of a hill.  We called Sean's sister Teri who lives at Upper Coomera and she came to collect Grannie Gardiner, and brought us a second lunch as we were starving.  When she left we caught the public bus to Pacific Fair Shopping Centre for groceries (300+ shops).  We spent ages in the supermarket looking in amazement at the different fruit and veges for sale, they were all sorts of odd colours and shapes.  We fitted in a little shopping as we negotiated our way out.  We were amazed at the wildlife; large bull ants, kookaburra, lorikeets, skinks, and Pied Currawong

Monday 8th

Unfortunately the boys didn't adjust to the time difference so were up at 3am (6am NZ time).  Apparently New Zealanders are renowned for their early starts on the Gold Coast.  We fed bread to the Brush Turkeys and the Pied Currawong on our porch.  We had a walk around the Miami shops while we waited for the bus and had a second breakfast from the local bakery.  They made a beautiful beef and rosemary pie and Sam was taken with the meringue penguins.  We caught the bus to Sea World and were there a little after 10am when it opened.  The first show we saw was a Detective show starring two sea lions and a pelican who were helping the police catch a robber who was polluting the sea for cash.  They did some amazing tricks and the audience was in hysterics.  We wandered up to the Ray reef pool and the boys were able to touch the rays on their wings as they swam past, and feed them fish out of their hands.  The rays mouthparts are underneath so the boys had to be brave as the rays came partly up their arms to grasp the fish.  At the far end of the pool was a separate area for baby sting rays which were very cute.  The first ride we rode was Vikings Revenge Flume ride, there was a big drop at the end which was thrilling and we all got wet.  Sean and Sam rode the Jet Rescue (fast jet ski's on a rail) and the Sea Viper roller coaster. The boys and I rode down through the park on the Sky High skyway while Sean walked the buggy back.  We found him sipping a frozen coke in the shade!  It was a hot day.  After lunch we got the boys organised for their dolphin encounter.  You book in at the office and they give you a rashie and boardies to change into.  While we waited we checked out Polar Bear shores, where there was one brown polar bear asleep in a pile of chipped bark, and Shark Bay which was pretty spectacular.  You look down into the shark pool, then walk underground into a giant aquarium to look into the side of the pool.  There were some very large sharks, and masses of different fish, and they came up close to the clear Perspex.  As we made our way out there were touch pools and you could feel the sea slugs (soft and squishy), sea cucumbers (bumpy) and shark egg cases.  At 2.30pm the boys had their Dolphin Encounter.  It was pretty special.  Rory and Sam were in a group with four other older children and a trainer.  Following instruction they were taken to a submerged platform where they were able to kneel (with water up to their waists).  Male dolphin Starbuck, the largest in the park, came up to interact with them.  He spoke to them (making sounds through his blow hole and mouth), splashed them as they splashed him, raced around the pool, walked on water on his tale, retrieved a ball and hoola hoop they threw for him, and posed for a photo with the children.  When Rory went to take the ball out of Starbucks mouth he wouldn't let it go.  Rory tried a couple of times, then the trainer had to instruct Starbuck to let go and loosen the ball so Rory could get it.  I know dolphin's are sensitive to their environment and have been shown to recognise 'differences' in humans i.e. pregnancy, illness.  I couldn't help but wonder if Starbuck could recognise something about Rory.  Both Sam and Rory loved the dolphin encounter, and it is recorded on DVD.  After showers we rode the monorail around Seaworld getting a birds-eye view of where we had spent the day.  Before we left we watched the Pirates Unleashed show.  Two groups of acrobats act as pirates and the navy engaged in a battle based on a large pirate ship moored in a lagoon.  They race around on jet ski's, fought, fired a cannon, dived from the rigging, and tried to get their hands on the treasure.  We caught the bus back through Surfers Paradise along the beach to Magic Mountain.  There were many life guard towers, trucks, and flagged areas where people were swimming.  When the boys were in bed Sean and I stood outside (as long as the mosquitos would allow) looking at the lights, the geckos on the walls and roof, and the large millipedes on the ground.  One of the Sea World trainers had to chase a large water dragon from the dolphin board walk this afternoon.  It was trying to get in on the act!

Tuesday 9th

It was up at 3.30am although we managed to convince the boys to snooze for another two hours.  We had an early breakfast and walked down to the beach for a swim at 7am.  It was hot and sunny, the sea was warm, and the waves were breaking evenly.  A tractor was grooming the beach.  There were no lifeguard flags up so Sean chose a spot where there were others swimmers (two young women in bikinis).  Rory didn't last long in the ocean as the salt water makes him itchy, but he was happy to sit in the sand while Sean, Sam and I made the most of it.  We walked back via the bakery (in our togs) to pick up our second breakfast.  We ate it at the apartment, showered then caught the bus to Movie World.  What a place!  Our first ride was the Scooby Doo Spooky Coaster.  It was inside a castle and the further we went in the queue the more apprehensive I became.  Roller coasters and I don't mix.  It was a fantastic ride, mostly in the dark, with plenty of great displays and lighting effects.  It went on for ages.  I was in control of myself for half the ride, but when we dropped down backwards, and went around in the corkscrews sliding to the outside of the cars I lost it.  I remember starting screaming and not stopping, wondering when it was going to end.  I was shattered when I got off.  Sean and the boys loved it.  It was Rory's favourite ride (the boys went twice more) and he got a Scooby Doo t-shirt.  Next up was the Wild West Falls Adventure ride in a log.  It was heaps of fun with a 70m drop at the end where we all got wet.  Unfortunately Rory banged his head when the log spun and dropped backwards early in the ride so he missed the first half while we checked him and consoled him.  It was a bit of a balancing act between Rory and the roller coasters.  The faster, scary more thrilling rides were too rough for him, and the little childrens rides too babyish.  It was a bit hit and miss but we made sure he got the chance to ride all those we thought he would enjoy (and some he didn't).  Sean rode two of the scarier rides, Superman Escape Rollercoaster and the Batwing Spaceshot.  Sam wasn't keen.  It was a very hot day so we drank several frozen cokes from a yard glass with a straw.  We looked in all the Warner Brothers shops and watched the Wild West gun fight.  The boys made dog tags for themselves.  At lunchtime we caught the end of the Batman show, then walked across to the Kids Zone where the boys rode; Sylvester and Tweety Cages, Taz Hollywood cars, Tijuana taxis (Sam in a pink one) and the Road runner rollercoaster.  We watched Shrek 4D at the theatre and were sneezed on by Shrek, had spiders crawl up our legs, and bumped along in the horse drawn pumpkin.  It was hysterical.  Sean and Sam rode the Lethal Weapon roller coaster which was super fast.  Sam got knocked around a bit on the sides of his temples as he put his head down to stop himself feeling sick.  We all rode the Batman adventure ride and watched the parade down Main Street with; Batman, Cat woman, Wonder woman (Sean's favourite), Flash, Sylvester and Tweety, Bugs Bunny, Shrek, Austin Powers and the Stunt Driver team.  When the park closed we caught the bus to Surfers Paradise for dinner and some shopping.  Rory and Sam got an airbrushed tattoo each (two revolvers, and a snake around a sword).  We arrived back at the apartment late.  We were lucky to have taken Rory's buggy as he wouldn't have survived the long days without the opportunity to ride and rest.  To us it often felt like we were pushing a concrete mixer in the desert (we later found out AirNZ let the air out of the tyres when they put it in the cargo hold of the plane!).