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.

Peter

A long day on very isolated roads

Awake to heavy fog which lifted from the Turangi camp site before we left but was heavy again once on the Desert Road. Finally cleared prior Waiouru to sight the mountain.Xiaoli insisted I used the P30 Huawei phone her son had finished with. Obviously I dont know how to use the camera on it yet as terrible photography. Should have stuck with the Samsung.Found out when refueling Waiouru that the Gentle Annie was closed only by someone countering that with its open weekends. I did not warn Xiaoli what the Gentle Annie road was like. By midway she is telling me to never tow the caravan over it again. Fortunately I dont listen when it comes to where I go. I loved every moment of it. The previous 2 times I did it, it was metal and I was in a BASH vehicle giving it hell. Now its sealed and being the ancient age I am, I drove it sedately as old people do (sometimes!).I havent told Xiaoli about the Waikaremoana Road I am still tempted to do even though we cant stop with the dogs. Maybe keep quiet on that one. I thought by now she had been in NZ long enough to know us Kiwi’s love a challenge and love the real outdoors.Now Hastings Top 10 motor camp for 2 nights. After that probably Gizzy but undecided as it is dependent on my health stability. Been okay today but I have eaten no food at all. I guess shortly I need contemplate that knowing the nausea hits 30 minutes later. The beer consumption has dropped considerably his trip. I have not had to top up supplies. Friends and family in the Hawkes Bay if you would like to catch up come visit us at the Top 10. There is some lovely far north red wine aboard plus obviously beer. Probably even find some chips to snack on. Easier if we stay here as they dont mind our 2 little furry friendsThe head is clear. Some good planning going on. Maybe putting a campervan/caravan tour together but main thoughts are about setting up an event to support the Starship ICU find raising event. Still leaning towards a multiple day event for 2005 and older 4wds. A good bit off off roading but not to the extreme level. Something even city dwellers could do but unlikely to do normally.Time for a coffee now and contemplate some food and the after effects that seem to follow

Wandering with no set direction, caravan in tow

We made it to the Chateau Tongariro today but only after I had a bad health issue with extreme nausea leaving us parked up for a long while. Xiaoli offered to drive but I hate her driving with no caravan so wasnt willing to risk life and limb with caravan behind.

Couldnt stop at the the Chateau or go up the mountain as signs everywhere saying no dogs. I guess that was referring to me but maybe our 2 little ones. Haha. So a U turn and now parked up for the night in Turangi Holiday Park. Tomorrow I think down to Taihape and across the Gentle Annie and then to Havelock North Top 10.

When we arrived Auckland the other night to park up in the Hisun warehouse I realised caravan keys were still back at the beach on the Pajero keyring from when we did our 3 day aborted trip after dramas. Called a locksmith and $204 later we had the caravan open and a new key cut

http://www.peterandxiaoli.com

An ill fated 3 week holiday that became 3 days!

An ill fated 3 week holiday that becomes 3 days!

We started the day with Xiaoli needing see a specialist at Kaitaia Hospital. What should have been a 10 minute appointment turned into over an hour with exploratory surgery now being scheduled. Bugger!

We stopped at the pharmacy to collect medications I needed for the 3 week trip. So far so good. About to switch the computer off and an incoming email received from people that had viewed our property several times with an offer. Damn! I reply saying we are heading off and we need think about it as it is less than we sought.

Decided to use our Pajero this trip so we could off road if we wished. Freshy serviced including new solenoids in the auto transmission. Hitch the caravan on and off we head. Get 35 minutes down the road and I ask Xiaoli where she stored the computer and internet modem for the trip. A blank stare. She thought I had done that. Bugger! Unhitch the caravan which I leave Xiaoli with and back track to home to get the computer and modem.

Get back to the caravan, hitch up and off we go .Just coming into Kaikohe and the truck wont change out of 3rd gear. Damn. Pull into the service station and refuel then I stand in front of the truck and ask it to behave. Start it up and all is back to normal. Off we head to meet a real estate agent .

Viewed the property which was okay except for the fact it is on a noisy main highway. Need think on that one.

Head to Matakohe Motor camp, a regular stopping point for us. I need medication and ask Xiaoli where she stored the medications I collected earlier. Whoops, they are back in our other car at home. Damn! I have enough for the night.

Turn the computer on and it wont start up. Up comes a warning message saying it needed a boot up disc or files would be lost. Damn! Well at least I had the tablet.

Up in the morning and head to view another property. The photos lied, definitely not suitable. Head back to Dargaville to find a pharmacy. They are able to give me a 3 day emergency supply and tell me to ring my doctor to get a script sent to a chemist on route. I do that and all is sweet except I find out later the script never arrived. Fortunately because of yet another truck issue with the transmission I would not need it.

Approaching Auckland the auto again does strange things with a warning light coming on. Park up and call the AA with whom I have the premium A+ breakdown insurance from touring days. They arrive. Check it out. The trans oil is clear. No sign of over heating. He ends up connecting to the computer and finds when it was serviced the mechanic had not reset the computer. So the computer was telling the transmission it had a fault. My turning the car off wiped the fault each time but sooner or later it would reappear and the trans would play up. The AA man reset the computer.

We decided after all the drama of 36 hours we would drop the caravan at a friends farm just north of Auckland and head home. A friend that knew of our dramas pleaded for us to park up but I said no. Later I found out why. We drove home. The Pajero transmission has never been smoother running like a dream. We get home 10pm absolutely exhausted. I have a beer and off to bed.

The morning we felt great and discover why our friend felt we should stay put. He had our 4 birds to look after left in their cage high up which I saw. Low and behold 24 hours earlier somehow a cat got the cage down and birds are gone

36 hours of one disaster after another. Now we are relaxed. The computer unfortunately had the hard drive destroyed so all files lost. But the computer now a much newer and faster hard drive. Sad about the files lost but my mistake for not doing regular back ups

In 3 days or so we will restart our holiday this time taking our normal tow vehicle.

In the meantime I need think whether we sell the property for the price offered or not. After all the dramas I am thinking not but just maybe we should. We do have the farm once title is through we can move to until we find something else. The property we saw on the main road I loved except for the road noise but they would need drop their price to accommodate the price we have been offered and the agent says that wont happen.

Weather is beautiful here. Beach flat calm. Need to go fishing and forget previous days dramas. Looking forward to restarting our holiday

I loosely follow Buddhism. Buddhism says what is, is what is

My poor boat has sat 5 months, unloved why my body recovers from major surgery

5 months sitting why health dictated I could not use or get into to the boat let alone fire it up and she fired up first turn. The boss (wife) doesnt think I should get on it yet due to ongoing issues. To me the only issue is I need calm weather or there is going to be some pain. And I need a mate to help winch it back on to the trailer. That I cannot do. I am sure I can haul the fish in.

I should have taken it to Auckland to be around the Americas Cup, but the TV coverage is pretty good anyway.

This weeks agenda, keep the late afternoon clear to watch the cup races. Get our farm purchase over the line which probably involves an Auckland trip. And pray the caravan window after 9 months waiting has finally arrived from the UK so we can use the van again.

See the surgeon in Whangarei Thursday. Hopefully he can suggest how we resolve some pretty serious ongoing issues. After all, he is the one that unannounced stole my spleen why I slept on the operating table. For good reason I know, but still a shock to wake 8 to 10 hours later to hear an organ that was not on the list had been removed. Bugger!!!! Mind you, there was a 30% chance of not waking. So I guess I should be happy.

Congrats to my brother on his pending book release. I didnt know he had written one. Things you find out through the strangest sources

And yes we have holiday accommodation available Easter but book soon. Ninety Mile Beach is a damn pretty good place to enjoy a holiday. Take our 4wd tour up the beach to Cape Reinga. 77km of beach driving. Have a fish in one of the top fishing locations in NZ. Who knows, if the boss allows I might take you out on the boat.

www.peterandxiaoli.com

Peter and Xiaoli – Our 2020 wrap up and dramas

2020 draws to a close. What a year!!!!!!!!!!

There is a little virus circulating the world killing hundreds of thousands of people and why the rest of the world is wrapped up in cotton wool, well those that will listen, here in little old New Zealand we party on oblivious with cases only in quarantine. Other than lockdowns earlier in the year to bring us to our elimination status in the community, we cannot relate to what the rest of the world suffers. Most of us have never even put a mask on and in a lot of cases don’t even own one. How lucky we are in New Zealand!

Personally, its been a shit year. Partially caused by the virus or the effects of our borders closed because of the virus. Its destroyed our comfortable six figure business. We may be lucky to bank maybe $25,000 this annual year. Enough to pay a few overheads but that’s about it.

The many contractors who we gave business to are unemployed or doing menial jobs to survive. I feel for them, I really do. But our hurting is much worse after many years of building a very successful and lucrative tourism business. We wont go belly up nor will we wind up the remaining business. We will just hibernate and enjoy the fact we had little debt and do earn a pension. Fortunately we acted fast enough to stop costs accelerating with no income coming in.

Finally October Xiaoli has been given the all clear from cancer after an 18 month battle. One breast less but at least alive and well. No energy but that is the affect of a long course of chemotherapy. Her birthday is on the 31st December so I snuck away yesterday and bought her a Huawei Smart watch so she can monitor the heart, the daily steps etc. Hoping she will once used to what it can do, challenge herself to do better each day to regain her health.

I have a smart watch which over the last year has been scary to see the performance of the heart after many years of being unwell and gradually getting worse. Finally after official complaints to the regional health board they took me, my doctors and the many specialists, they accepted I need an operation and that I was prepared to accept the very serious risks and odds attached.

Records showed I started complaining of health issues very fast after an operation in 2011. Finally they open me up December 2020 and the surgeon agrees the 2011 operation was a failure. Yet they would not listen all those years. Standard answer, lets do another gastroscopy  or colonoscopy. Then Peter will go away. Well I didn’t go away, did I.

The serious risks, well I survived and they corrected the problem on December 14 just past. A 3 hour operation became an 8 hour operation and it cost me a spleen. No spleen, means no immune system. But with daily penicillin and a medic alert bracelet I should be able once recovered, have a normal life. Just stay from sick people and try avoid crowds.

Due to no immune system after 4 days in ICU we were sent home early as a hospital ward with all the bugs is too dangerous for me. Loaded with the drugs including 30 syringes of antibiotics we go home. I am my own nurse following the drug regime and the nightly injections. And I hate needles.

The many staples holding my stomach together removed on the 24th. Now left with a hollow look one side of the stomach and a fat look the other. Lets hope it evens out with time. Another 7 days before I can eat solid food. A scotch fillet steak is high on the agenda.

What will 2021 bring for us.

  1. I have a 5m boat sitting outside that is sadly covered over . I know one turn of the key it will fire up. In the 3 years of ownership its seen the water maybe a dozen times because of my health. That is going to change, and change rapidly once I regain strength.
  2. The caravan purchased November 2019 has only seen a couple of trips. Currently for the last 6 months sitting with a broken window awaiting a replacement from England. I am assured the replacement is somewhere between the UK and here. Once arrived, that caravan is going to do so many road trips
  3. The business, well hopefully that will be wound up if the sale of the property goes through. Time for the next stage in our life. Probably a lifestyle property with maybe a house I can slowly renovate as a hobby. And one level. No stairs.
  4. Help build a business I help set up my my mate that employs my son. A business needing my time to give it the boot up required but something I couldn’t do with failing health.

The last decade has many ups and downs. A great ongoing marriage to my beautiful Xiaoli. A great human/animal bond with our 3 aging dogs. And anybody that knows us, knows we treat them as spoilt children who go where-ever we go.

From an age and health perspective I will be happy to see my sixties over. Welcome in my 70’s as of April 2021. And yes, there will be the traditional Peter and Xiaoli party which many know our reputation for. And yes I will drink one to many to ensure my legacy continues. So mark in the diary April 24 2021. Not sure the location yet but definitely Northland region. A banquet of seafood will be dished up caught by yours truly. Party time!!!!!

I have adopted a positive attitude to life. Those that know me personally know I battle to keep bipolar at bay. So I live for today and tomorrow. I cannot change the past. Now I am operated on I believe I will have great health leading into my latter years. Hopefully 30 years of bullshit left in this body yet.

Time 2021 to start afresh.

Love to all – Peter

My long awaited major surgery

I have fought the DHB since 2013 to have an operation to correct an operation done 2011 that had failed. 2013 to 2019 I had many gastroscopies and colonoscopies done each year and there was no argument with the verdict.On lodging an official complaint with the DHB they have no records for me 2013 to 2018. Then I reappear back on their records 2018 but a booking clerk lost me for a year. Their words not mine.The DHB gave an official apology pinning blame on the booking clerk. The missing 5 years they said I must have gone private. I certainly did not.

They promised my major surgery to be done late August, then it became Sept, then Oct 18 then finally Nov 23.We drove the 3 hours to the hospital on the 22nd. A mate dropped Xiaoli and I down. I went to check into the lodge at the hospital where we would stay, or at least Xiaoli would while I was in a hospital recovery bed. Get told at the hospital reception there is no booking in the system for us. Thankfully I had an email confirmation on my phone. Drama avoided.7.15am we present ourselves to the surgical ward. Given the gown and hospital underwear. Blood pressure etc all checked. Saw the anesthetist who informed me I had a heart murmur which she had only just picked up in the notes. I have had a non threatening heart murmur since I was 40. But a nurse who did a precheck in Kaitaia showed it with the wrong technical term. They checked my heart, and yes hospital error. Told now I will be wheeled in within minutes as I was first up. In walks the surgeons registrar. All surgery for my specialist is cancelled immediately for the day. Shock sets in but they say since I am there would I allow an ultrasound to be done by a heart surgeon. Sure. Passed that flying colours and yes I have a non threatening heart murmur.

Need get hold of my mate. Get back here, we need go home. He was not enthralled. The hospital in the meantime trying to appease the situation say they will give us petrol vouchers. I was furious to say the least and the drugs for preop they gave me starting to put me in la la land. Why waiting for my mate I got emails off to my hospital contacts who had full knowledge of my roller coaster ride they caused. They had already heard and very apologetic. Very rapidly got me rebooked for December 14. Will be into our peak business season so this time will need do it alone. This is a major op with a long slow recovery so it knocks me out until at least end of January. All the good plans of reinventing the business following the huge hit it took through borders being shut, are gone. I am furious. Still zonked out from the drugs. Not a happy camper

http://www.peterandxiaoli.com

A rewarding day out to clear the mind

And next week is November! Where does the time go?

Yesterday we had a day out fishing. 15 fish landed for 3 hours not very hard work. A good result capped by a beautiful sunny somewhat day.

For me the result was some items for a seafood chowder soup I planned. Xiaoli and her friend, fish head soup beckoned. Personally I think my choice was better.

Saturday just gone was a day for me often found bedridden with stomach and nausea issues. Ongoing issues ever since they operated back in 2011.

Today a reply from a complaint I lodged with the Northland DHB over my health issues and their handlings of. The complaint lodged back in September. And yes surprise, surprise. An apology. Somehow a booking clerk is blamed for me slipping through the system unnoticed from 2019 to 2020 for a period of 9 months. But no answer on the other period from when they stopped testing 2013 to 2019. In fact a denial I had a multitude of gastroscopies and colonoscopies. Apparently they must have been through private health providers and not the public health system despite me not having private health insurance.

How does this happen in our public health system which as our country politicians try tell us is maybe under funded but still of a high reputation? It appears no one can give me that answer so I have thrown that back to my doctor to look into. After all he ordered the many procedures trying to find my ongoing issues. How did I end up in a private system when he is part of the local hospital? And why are results not communicated between the private specialists and the public system?

Many questions, but no answers. A lot of people may not front up like me but I am tired of being sick all the time. Very tired.

But yesterday sparked me up. An afternoon up the beach with Xiaoli and my best mate Mike and his partner Fang. We had fun. We got sunburnt not realising how hot that sun was. And most importantly we caught more than a feed of fish. What we don’t eat being destined for friends and family in Auckland who we will do the 5 hour trip to visit tomorrow.

Fishing, a damn good relaxing time out sport. A time to relax the mind. And for me catching the fish is fantastic but not as important as just getting out and trying.

www.peterandxiaoli.com  

Our first 4wd beach tour since the March lockdown

Peter and Xiaoli VIP 4wd tour to Cape Reinga via the beaches

Not a great video as it was produced fast for our customers as a record of where we went. We also give them the stills. Just part of what we offer on the Ninety Mile Beach to Cape Reinga tours.

What a great feel to be out there working again. Its been a very long time between tours and I forgot how much I actually enjoy them. The scenery. Showing people our paradise here in the far north of New Zealand.

Interesting, we get to Cape Reinga and the lighthouse and only 1tour bus arrived. Normally this time of year there would be 5 to 10 buses as summer approaches. The beaches were desolate, the Te Paki stream no sign of wheel marks given the very distinct impression we were the first 4wd to drive through there yesterday.

My mate driving the Fullers bus from Paihia was very fast to greet me as I arrived at the lighthouse. He said to me how lonely it can be at the lighthouse when no other tour buses or 4wds arrive as no one to talk to why his customers go for their walk. A strange new norm. No sharing of food we all carry for our customers on the day. Always good to see what the other driver/guide have aboard to share.

More enquiries are coming, in particularly for the summer holidays. Still mainly accommodation though, but hopefully the day tour bookings will also follow.

As much as I enjoy having our international tourists around, their absence allows you to see some of our most scenic spots in a different way. More what we saw in our childhood growing up. Getting beaches almost to yourself.

http://www.peterandxiaoli.com

The effects on business in the new COVID world

Our website stats for the last 15 months showing whats happening albeit stats I show you do not give full info I have. See the notable drop coinciding with the first lockdown then a smaller drop coinciding with the 2nd Auckland lockdown.
Not seen on this graph is the big change affecting our website. Hits used to be 90% international with a sway towards the UK and Europe. Stats since COVID hit and directly affected us, hits are now 95% kiwis.
Are bookings happening given the huge upswing in Kiwi’s clicking on our website? Yes! Our accommodation bookings are currently running about 40% of what we would normally achieve but very positive signs these are increasing.
Our long haul tours (14 to 25 days) which were our real money earner, zilch bookings and zilch enquiries. Just fortunate we had sold our main tour vehicle back in January after deciding to go with rental vehicles in the future as it gave us greater flexibility dependent on the size of the tour group.
Our Ninety Mile Beach 4wd tours which we hold one of the very few licenses available, no tours since February. But starting tomorrow our first new season tour and further enquiries being received. Over the past 10 years our customers for the 4wd tours were 95% international with again the sway towards European and UK visitors.
Our 4wd tour vehicle needed replacement at the end of the last season with the beach having taken its toll on it. Replacement purchased but we slashed our normal purchase amount 60% given the uncertainty. Our 4th Mitsi Pajero silver colour. Not intentional to buy silver but it seems our destiny.
The benefit of all the Covid effects on our business? Certainly not monetary obviously and we have drastically changed our business plans and normal outgoing expenses to try help the reduction. But the real benefit is the quality of life we now have. Xiaoli and I get quality time together. We have enjoyed a number of trips away with the caravan exploring places that I have never had the time therefore opportunity to take Xiaoli to.
Money is not important as long as you have enough to survive. Quality of life is and through all this new norm we are discovering our new found freedom and enjoying it.
Peter
http://www.peterandxiaoli.com