We headed out towards Belgrave and went for a ride on Puffing Billy. The girls really enjoyed this, especially sitting on the window ledges, dangling their legs over the edge. It was a lot of fun and there was some beautiful scenery. We stopped briefly at the Lakeview where the girls had a quick play in the park before we headed back to Melbourne.
We headed over to the new women’s hospital in Melbourne. Olivia was born there but in the old building. We visited Olivia’s neonatal specialist, Dr Sue Jacobs. She took such wonderful care of Olivia as a premmie baby and saw us through many of our highs and lows during that difficult period of our life (hang on, when haven’t our lives been difficult??). Sue was kind enough to take us on a tour of the new hospital. We visited the NICU and Special Care Nurseries. Both areas have new specialized equipment and were much more spacious and modern than the nurseries at the old hospital. We even had the opportunity to see some incredibly tiny babies, a couple of them were no more than 600 grams! Our girls were fascinated to see such small babies. We also saw one who was about the same size Olivia was when she born (about 1.5kg or 3lb 6oz). Many memories came flooding back to me though I didn’t find it as difficult as I thought I would. Mind you, there is absolutely no way I could watch video footage of Olivia when she was in NICU – those memories have been made even more difficult for me handle given what has since happened to Olivia. My goal is to sit down with Olivia when she’s older, maybe 8 or so, and view the footage with her and look back on these years as a distant memory and reflect on our amazing journey, how far we’ve come and how we overcame an epic battle and made it through to the other end, happy and healthy. We are going to do it. We are going to get our happy ending.
After visiting the hospital, we decided to spend the afternoon at Melbourne Zoo.
In the morning, we headed off to St Leonard’s College where I used to teach five years ago when James and I lived there. The school have continued to support us over the years and even did some fundraising for our appeal a few months ago. They had a purple ribbon day (Oli’s fave colour) and pyjama day and managed to raise several hundred dollars. The students also passed on many well wishes to Olivia through cards and drawings. As well as to catch up with my ex-colleagues, we wanted to pass on our personal thanks to everyone there.
On our arrival during recess, Olivia was mobbed by many of the school’s younger students. It was hilarious! It was like she was a celebrity! Many of the students handed her cards and drawings they had made for her, as well as presents or other things they had made. It was just gorgeous and we were incredibly touched by their generosity and thoughtfulness. Olivia loved the attention.
Our sincere thanks goes to Amanda for taking the time to walk us through the school to visit the staff and students. She has also been one of our most avid supporters. We also met the lovely Year 10 student who initiated the fundraising event. Some other Year 10 students also gave us some money they had raised through selling milkshakes and smoothies in their business studies. They had the option of using the money to buy something special for their common room or to donate it to charity and they chose to donate it to Olivia’s appeal. Wow! We are just so deeply humbled by all of these kind acts of generosity.
All of the students we met at St Leonard’s showed so much compassion towards Olivia and our family. They were all thrilled to see her and passed on all of their very best wishes. They are all such beautiful students and they have such a strong community spirit. Going back to St Leonard’s made me realize how fortunate I was to have worked there.
We spent some time in the Year 1 classroom where Olivia and Sarah did some drawings. They had an absolute ball with the students.
We had to leave after lunch. Olivia was so disappointed as she said she wanted to go and play with the kids. She then asked me when she could play with them again. She had a fantastic time. Thanks again to everyone for making us feel so welcome.
We then headed over to Emily’s (another ex-colleague) place for afternoon tea. We had a great time – there was a lot of catching up to do. Olivia and Sarah had a lovely time catching up with Emily’s three gorgeous daughters who were similar ages to our girls.
We then moved onto Helen and James’ place for dinner where we caught up with Tim (my old St Leonard’s teaching partner). We had a lovely time but it all went too quickly. We wish we’d had more time in Melbourne so that we didn’t have to cram in all of our catch ups.
The girls were fairly exhausted by the end of the day, to say the least.
Olivia commenced her first round of cis-retinoic today. This is the same medication she took for 11 months post-transplant. She tolerated it fairly well and the doctors felt that there may be some benefit in taking it. The most obvious side effect is the excessive skin dryness, which can at times be very sore and itchy. It can also cause joint and muscle pain which can be a worry for James and I as cancer can cause similar complaints. Again, Olivia takes her medication without complaint. Her doctors would like her to remain on it for about six months.
James took Sarah to Kidstart while I took Olivia to the Governor General’s Christmas Party at Government House (only one parent and no siblings were allowed). A group of us met at Camp Quality headquarters in Weston and took a bus to the party. We all sat in a marquee and feasted on fruit, party pies, cakes, etc. Santa paid a quick visit and handed out lollies to the kids. The GG also spoke briefly and then spent some time meeting some of the children and their families. Unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to meet her, as Olivia, Caroline (our friend from CQ) and I spent the majority of the time queuing for the jumping castle and face painting. Nevertheless, Oli seemed to have a good time.
When we arrived home, we raced around to do our last minute packing for Melbourne as our flight was only a couple of hours away. We had to make sure we were at the airport on time as Tiger Airways has a very strict policy regarding passengers arriving late. We actually made it with a few minutes to spare. On my way through security, one of the security staff pointed out to me that I used to teach her when she was in Year 5 or 6. Geez, it’s moments like that that make you feel old! It was good to see her anyway.
By the time, we arrived at our apartment in Melbourne it was getting quite late. The girls had been very well behaved though Sarah was becoming a little grisly (only because she was tired). We found a lovely little restaurant nearby and grabbed a bite for dinner, though it turned out to be a very late night for the girls.
We spent six hours at the Old Bus Depot Markets today selling raffle tickets. Unfortunately, in that time, we only managed to sell 28 tickets which was very disappointing and disheartening. Thanks to Wendy and Lynne for coming along and keeping me company. Ultimately, we decided that the market was not the best place for selling tickets so we cancelled our other booked date.