Peter and Anna’s daughter was just 20 months old when her seizures began.
“She was a shell of herself, wandering around in a fog and haze,” Peter said of Olivia, who was suffering from severe epilepsy.
“There was a twinkle and spark in her eye and you could see there was strength there, but she was constantly affected by the seizures.”
The family sought treatment at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, where the skilled neurology team conducted two successful operations.
“To see people take care of her in that way, is just something you can’t repay,” said Peter, whose family is now living in Bendigo, where Anna is originally from.
Peter, along with a number of families across Australia, are attempting to repay that care through a Guinness World Record attempt.
The Boating for Brains crew is attempting to break the record for the longest dragon boat journey, currently held at 545.56 kilometres, which was set on the Missouri River in the USA in 2010.
Four Bendigonians, two of which will represent local dragon boat crews Dragons Abreast and Dragons Afloat, will take part in a four-day, 600km paddle on the Murray River from Yarrawonga to Swan Hill on November 3-6.
The crew hopes to raise $200,000 for the RCH's Neuroimaging service, which Peter said was crucial during Olivia’s operations.
“Without that surgery Olivia (now five) wouldn’t have the prospects she has now, and to help give someone else that opportunity is amazing, which is why we want to do it,” Peter said, as the group prepared to train at Lake Weeroona on Sunday morning. The Bendigo-based dragon boat clubs will also provide the boat to be used during the world-record attempt.
The funds will specifically fund the position of a specialised neuroscientist at the RCH for the management of brain scans in children with epilepsy, brain tumours, stroke and malformations.
Medical imaging allows neurologists to identify subtle lesions causing a child's seizures and provides the ability for neurosurgeons to operate safely on tumours and seizures while avoiding normal functioning brain structures.
According to RCH statistics; over 150 children with uncontrolled epilepsy are evaluated for surgery each year at the hospital, up to 10 patients each week require brain image processing as part of assessments for epilepsy, tumour and stroke related surgery, 40-50 children undergo surgery at RCH for the management of epilepsy each year and a third of children presented at the RCH with epilepsy are referred from interstate.
The group is actively looking for sponsors. More info: http://www.boatingforbrains.com.au/