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Real Life

Weekly people: Brave mum's fairytale wedding

A deserving Hokitika couple enjoyed a day they will cherish forever.

By Louise Richardson
After a small drama when a ring couldn't be located and a stand-in had to be fetched from a local store, all the anxiety of preparing for a wedding dissolved completely as Daniel Bishop (35) saw his bride-to-be, Kate Robinson, walking towards him in the softly fading sunlight of an autumnal Auckland day.
The mum-of-three has spent the last seven months living at Starship's Ronald McDonald House, where her son Jai is under the care of a team of paediatric kidney and heart specialists at the hospital. But today, the 22-year-old felt more like Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge – but this Kate wore a beaded gown lent by a friend, with her hair expertly styled and a broad smile on her face.
Also smiling in his special buggy, with his stepbrother Tylar (10) protectively holding his hand, was baby Jai, a little battler whose life has brought huge joy – and deep sadness – to his family. An oxygen tank is with him permanently and every night, he needs kidney dialysis to filter waste from his blood.
It was important to the couple that all their loved ones, in particular their youngest son, be at their wedding day.
"We chose this day because it was my 22nd birthday and Jai's first," Kate explains. "We were recently told that Jai can't have the kidney surgery he needs because his heart wouldn't handle the strain. All we can do now is keep him comfortable for as long as we have him. Daniel and I decided if we were going to get married, Jai had to be at the wedding and it's unbelievable how much the people around us have done so that we could have our special day."
Kate was around halfway through her pregnancy when Jai's kidney problems were first detected, with his heart issues picked up sometime later.
"It was touch and go when he was born," says Daniel, a dairy farm worker, handsome in his suit, but whose tired eyes reflect the stress of the past year. "There was really only one short period when we were able to have Jai home with us in Hokitika. Apart from that, he's been in Christchurch or Starship hospital."
The uncertainty of their situation has been hard on Tylar and his sister Makiaya (7), who are Daniel's children, and on Kate's two, Vanessa (4) and Blake (2). But on this happy day, all four played a part in the moving ceremony, as Kate's mother Linda Robinson and Daniel's mum Kay Ferguson, both from Hokitika, looked on proudly.
Celebrant Dr Kim Jewel Elliott had helped the couple with their wedding vows, and references to sickness and health were particularly poignant in light of their son's situation. Yet despite his troubles, Jai is a lovable, happy baby who enjoys being fussed over by Daniel and Kate's large network of extended family and friends.
Having spent so much time with him in hospital, Kate has learned a great deal about kidney and heart issues, and now hopes to pursue a career in paediatric nursing at some stage in the future, when her children are older.
Big brother Tylar held tight to wee Jai's hand as their parents pledged their love.
"The hospital staff have been so good to Jai," she says. "It makes me feel that I want to give something back. He and I spend a lot of time playing little tactile games, or I read to him. He's always so lovely and responsive."
The family is grateful for the support they've received from the Kidney Kids charity and, in fact, the wedding was held in the garden of its family support coordinator Courtanay Gray's parents' home.
Guardian Angels, who help the families of terminally ill children have also been involved in Jai's care.
Around Kate's neck hangs a special necklace, Jai's fingerprint cast in silver by jewellery maker Shelly Lindberg. "No matters what happens in the future, this will keep my precious boy always close to my heart," she says simply.

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