Journey to raise funds for Australia's only neuron-surgery
THERE have been ebbs and flows during the nine months of Peter Christen organising a Dragon Boat Journey to raise funds to enable the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne to employ an imaging scientist.
The former Maryborough father of two has set a goal to raise $200,000 and break the Guinness World Record for the longest dragon boat journey.
His six-year-old daughter, Olivia, was the catalyst to starting the event.
Olivia has undergone two surgeries to address her debilitating epilepsy which started when she was just 15-months-old.
"She was having hundreds of seizures a day - basically her brain was constantly seizing and without the operations there was a very grim outlook," Peter said.
"She would learn words and then after seizures lost everything - she was just a shadow of herself."
Peter said the main intention was to try and raise the money for the the Neurology Ward at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.
"It was just before she was two when Olivia had her first operation and then when she was four she had her second operation.
"While it doesn't seem very Fraser Coast centric they are the only facility in Australia that do neuron-surgery on children."
Peter's family including his parents Ruedi and Edwina and brother Robert who all still live in Maryborough will join friends and five families who have had similar experiences.
The group of 22 together with a support crew of 16 will paddle 600kms from Yarawonga to Swan Hall along the Murray River.
The Guinness World Record currently sits at 545 which was done in the US in 2010.
"We are attempting to break it over five days roughly - 12 hour days paddling constantly.
"We are planning to go from 5.30 in the morning, as soon as there is light, until about 8.30 at night.
"If we average about 10kms an hour we will be quite happy.
"A couple of weeks ago we did a trial run, where we got everyone in the team in Melbourne and we did just over 60kms before it started to hail and rain.
"The wind was too bad and we had to call it off."
Robert said that the Boating For Brains team had all joined local dragon boat clubs.
"I joined the Hervey Bay Dragon Boat Club - this was the first starting point for me, never having seen a dragon boat before I was asked to join," Robert said.
"Everyone is trying to do one- to 15-hours a week of gym and rowing machines and dragon boating.
"We get together as a big group every now and then - it is difficult.
"We will try to do a 100kms trial in October but other than that it is just people just training by themselves."
The team includes people from Maryborough, Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Bendigo, Taiwan.
"We are getting a motley crew together to try and make a difference.
"There are five parents in the boat that have had children with operations like Olivia's - epilespy-related surgeries. The rest is made up of family and friends."
The team have already raised $40,000 and were looking for more corporate sponsors for individuals and for the boats.
They are hoping to raise the money so they can prove that funding an imaging scientist was very necessary.
"The scientist we are raising money for is not funded in the public system, everything else is funded," Peter said.
"It is a great facility but this position we are trying to justify how needed and necessary it is and the $200,000 will go to cover a couple-of-years, proof-of-concept; then after that will ideally show that should be a public funded position.
"We are working closely with the neurologists and scientists and that whole department - they say that is what they need most because that person makes such a difference."
That person's difference has ensured young Olivia to be seizure-free with no need for medication since November 2016.
To help the Boating For Brains team in the Dragon Boat Journey go to boatingforbrains.com.au/ or visit Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or Everyday Hero.
"I would greatly appreciate your support and the people at the hospital will use your donation to make a change in the lives of children and their families for years to come.
Money raised by the Boating For Brains crew will fund the position of a specialised neuroscientist 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.