Seven kids and their parents arriving at the airport (two of whom have no idea what is about to occur).
We are greeted by a lady dressed in red, with a huge smile and sparkling blue eyes.
She opens up a gate and we move towards a check-in point that has been reserved just for today.
There are four Captains
and they are warm and friendly.
Familiar faces from our Starlight family are here too
and we talk and laugh
and forget that Ivy was only formally discharged from the hospital twenty-four hours beforehand.
We are given boarding passes and walk through to the other side of the departures lounge.
This is a first for our family.
David and I have experienced this rush of excitement before
but none of the kids have.
The big kids look nervous
and the two littlies are curious.
“Where are we going?”
“What are we doing?” they ask over and over again.
David and I smile and tell them we can’t ruin the surprise -
which is a joy flight around Sydney with Virgin Australia, who are celebrating their 100th 737 into the airport
and have donated this to Starlight as major sponsors of their 25th year in Australia helping sick children.
Noah guesses wildly and correctly
and is totally and irreversibly over stimulated as a result.
He fidgets and talks loudly to anyone who will listen.
The excitement he is feeling is almost palpable.
Ivy, who has been sitting on her father’s shoulders, quietly asks if this is all true -
if we are indeed going to board a plane.
We tell her yes and hand her the boarding passes to look over.
Her eyes crinkle at the sides as a smile explodes onto her little face
and I feel such joy being there to experience this first with them.
In all honesty, due to the number of us, the risk of Ivy’s illness and the financial strain that comes with having a medically fragile child
this will probably be the only time that our children will travel by air
until they are adults and can go without us.
For our family, this is an amazing opportunity and we are thankful for it.
We walk along the corridor after security has x-rayed everything – including beloved soft toys, which causes the small girl to comment
on the possible radiation poisoning of her chicken.
It makes me chuckle.
Ivy and the Captains sit on the travelator as Noah weaves his way in and out of the sea of people
and the rest of us try to keep up.
All of the Captains are amazing but one has taken Noah under his wing and looks after him well
and I feel as though the boy has found his people as he sits amongst the purple and yellow.
Games are played along the way and arm painting is done
as we check through security and make our way to gate 41 for photos.
Soon we find ourselves down the long felted walkway (air bridge, David tells me – it’s an air bridge. What do I know? I am almost as naive as the kids when it comes to flying)
to board the plane.
Ivy wants to experience everything.
She and her trusty chicken Bok-Bok hand over our boarding passes
and she has the metal detector swept over her.
We are met at the door by a stewardess who smiles and welcomes Ivy to the flight.
The small girl beams as our hostess kneels down to her level to take her ticket.
As we walk away Ivy comments that she is the most beautiful lady she has ever met.
Oh. I wish I could have the ability to record every minute -
I try to cover as much as I can with photos and hope I can commit the rest to memory.
We are seated in the seventh and eighth rows.
Our family of nine all together.
Ivy checks everything out.
The lights, the air conditioning, the in flight magazine
and then she reads the emergency instructions from cover to cover, noting that the life jackets are under the seat and where all of the exits are.
I think to myself that she is probably the only child to do this.
Meticulous is she in her safety needs.
It makes me smile to myself.
We are welcomed to the flight and as the 737 pushes back from the air bridge
my heart starts that familiar quicken it gets when there is something new happening
and I can see the other kids’ eyes wide and unsure as we start our journey along the runway
as Ivy babbles next to me excitedly.
She is still coming to terms with the fact that we are actually going to take off -
she had thought we were merely going to sit inside the plane’s cabin for a while.
That would have been more than her wildest dreams come true
but this -
this is amazing and wonderful and every happy thought all wrapped into one
and I can see that it is the same for Noah too, who is peering out of the window, barely moving in his seat -
the excited, messy boy of the airport long gone
and the fully concentrating, questioning boy, now full of wonder.
We hear the engines move into full throttle
and suddenly we are moving, speeding along the runway.
The moment that the aircraft leaves the ground is magical.
I am recording Ivy’s response for a journalist,
so my senses are honed into the girl.
I will never forget it.
A small squeal of delight escapes her mouth – her smile is enormous.
A full toothy grin.
I can hear the other kids around me whoop and clap along with the rest of the passengers on board
and our two hour flight has begun.
We are released from the confines of our seatbelts and the small girl, who has given up her window seat to Maddy, through fear,
clambers onto her sister’s lap and peers down as the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House come into view.
I am presented with an award – a lovely surprise
but I can’t think of it as just mine.
To me it will always be Ivy’s too (ours).
Media interview and film us in a flurry of fluffy microphones and wide lensed cameras.
It is lovely that they want to support Starlight by running with this story.
We are given lunches wrapped in ribbon
and I let Ivy eat normal ice cream despite the aftermath that will come of it.
She is in heaven.
The Collective (an Australian boy band that my big girls tell me are “hot”) sing in the aisle
and before we know it, we have started the descent back to the airport.
Ivy and Noah are invited into the cockpit and final farewells are made with the big hearted Virgin crew -
new friends found
and our Starlight family.
Our adopted Captain asks for and receives Ivy’s autograph up his arm, in black permanent marker.
Everyone is quiet as we travel back to our bus.
Taking in, remembering all the little things
but Immy coins it up well when she comments that it is a day
that none of us will ever forget.
Channel 7′s Today Tonight coverage is linked here. (includes the footage of Ivy at take off). I love this so much.
News.com.au’s Debra Killalea wrote a beautiful piece here. All of the journalists were lovely but she was so easy to talk to
Thank you Starlight and Virgin Australia for giving us valuable time together and memories to treasure. We will be forever thankful.