My bid to raise much needed funds for the Starship childrens hospital new ICU

My son, Adam Mark Birchall. Died 25th May 1992

Why a story about Adam you ask? Well he passed away after a 3 month battle with Aplastic Enemia in the Starship Hospital back in 1992.

Out then family doctor on a wifes appointment for her own checkup noticed bruising on Adam. We always knew he seemed to bruise easy but then he was a very full on child. John Nealie contacted the Starship and got an urgent appointment for Adam in the Oncology Department. On seeing him they took a bone marrow sample and he was very quickly diagnosed with Aplastic Enemia. A very rare disease that attacks the bone marrow, but not a cancer but treated the same way. Basically it killed the platelets which is important in our immune system. Most of us have 150 to 400 platelet count, Adam was initially less than 20 and very rapidly dropped to single figures.

We each have on rough count 4000 bugs racing around our system but its our platelets that counter them and stop the bugs affecting us.

Each of us in the family needed give blood to see if any matched for a bone marrow transplant. My eldest Nicholas, was a 3 out of 4. The closest. And given back then few people kept stem cells following birth it was our best opportunity.

Until a few days prior the operation it was looking like it would be done in Sydney. A $100,000 operation to first harvest the bone marrow from Nicholas then drip into Adam. But first major radiation treatment followed by chemotherapy.

Last minute the Starship Oncology head Lochie Teague managed to convinced the Auckland Health board to let the team at the Starship carry out the operation. Specialists from around the world were contacted by Lochie to ensure the radiation, chemotherapy then the actual operation procedures were best suited to cure Adam.

Given Nicholas was not a perfect match for bone marrow Adam had reduced odds but still favorable. Unfortunately everything worked and Adams platelets were reviving but his own bugs got him. He already had 14 machines pumping different things into him to help him survive. A record then for the Starship but unfortunately not enough.

I was already involved with the Variety Club on the annual BASH event raising money for sick and needy children. In fact I was away on my very first BASH in my own vehicle when the hospital summonsed me back after 4 days. Adam needed an urgent stent put direct into his heart so they could get antibiotics in faster to the blood stream.

Some very good people on the BASH and that year within 15 minutes the head of the Freightway Group, Trevor Farmer had arranged for the TVNZ helicopter to land in the camp opposite the Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell and fly me back home. Actually landing on our 10 acre block in Waimauku. Trevor subsequently refused to let me pay a cent for that helicopter. So Trevor another thankyou. Also TVNZ. I have never forgotten.

The Starship and Lochie Teague, I have never said thankyou. No, you did not win Adams battle but you gave him a damn good chance. Now I want to say thankyou.

I did 13 years of Variety Club BASH events raising money for sick and needy children in NZ. Sometimes up to 3 vehicles which was some feat raising the money for not just the entry fee and other fees associated but keeping the vehicles which were old, in a condition they would perform for 7 days. I even took a 1954 Fire Engine to the United States for a Variety Club BASH there. Unfortunately I think the fire engine was shipped back as deck cargo as it rusted badly thereafter. I loved that fire engine.

The Starship Hospital ICU are raising funds to build better and bigger facilities. My health permitting I want to help. A target in my mind of $100,000.

Can I do it? Certainly not alone.

My idea, go back to the original Dick Smith concept for the Variety Club BASH. A 7 day event driving older vehicles where entrants are encouraged to fund raise prior the event, then the event proper is for the entrants. Go to the outbacks and have fun.

My proposal, 4wds 2005 or older so all entrants are equal. For city dwellers who have never done real four wheel driving. Liaise with 4wd clubs to come up with a 7 day route with minimum to medium 4wd driving skills. Fun challenges for he entrants themselves where they need compete as teams and I mean not in the vehicle.

All vehicles will pay a $2000 entry fee. A guaranteed minimum 90% will go to the Starship direct. The problem with the Variety Club BASH we never really knew how much ended up helping the kids. My road, River to Bush rally you will know.

Google Road Boss rally Australia. Okay, their outbacks are different to ours but you will get the idea.

Proposed timing late April 2022. Incorporating ANZAC weekend. Start the Starship Auckland heading for the Waikato, King Country and Taranaki. You can enter for just the 3 day long weekend for $1000 or the 7 day event for $2000.

Have I teased your fancy? Whether you want to enter or be on the organizing committee or just donate through us to the Starship then contact me today.

This is a big event to organize. Maybe 2022 may be a little hopeful but dreams need start somewhere.


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