Monday, April 21, 2014

Day four - Special Friends

Today was a good day.
We were up bright and early, and instead of grabbing breakfast at the hotel, we treated ourselves at something of an American institution - Denny's.
In truth, the ambience was somewhat akin to the Little Chef back home, but boy, do they know how to do breakfast!
The kids had stacks of pancakes, Pete had something or other with lots of meat and eggs, and I had the best French toast I have ever eaten. And even better, they just keep refilling your coffee mug, over and over again!
Then we headed off to the Mall at Millennia - quite possibly the poshest mall I have ever seen. It was full of designer stores, water features and massive palm trees.
It also had a beautiful - well, I don't know what you'd call it really - a grotto, I suppose, but instead of Father Christmas, it had the Easter Bunny. It is SO much bigger over here - with aisles and aisles of Easter stuff at all the shops, so we couldn't pass up the chance to have the kids' picture taken with the bunny! It turned out beautifully, but it's a print so will have to go on the blog when I am back home with my scanner! (I've since scanned it in, and it's in a post of its own, below...)
Now, the real reason for our trip to the mall...
When Charlie was about two, I saw a video online, about a man called Bryan Rothlein. Back then he was in his early 30s, and a veterinary surgeon.
He also has a heart almost identical to Charlie's.
He was and is the oldest person I have ever come across who is living his life without his left ventricle.
I was so amazed and inspired when I saw the footage, that I actually emailed the production company to find out more about this miraculous man.
The production company passed my email onto Bryan and his family, and I received emails from him and from his mother, Lesley.
We have been in touch ever since. Bryan is now 36, married, with a beautiful (and healthy) nine-month-old daughter of his own.
He and his family have continued to inspire us and give us hope.
And... they live in Florida!!
His mum and dad (Jerry) came all the way from Destin to see us (a SIX-HOUR drive!!) and we met up at the mall this morning.
What an amazing day! To finally be able to meet them face-to-face, and talk properly at last!
We had a wander around the mall, talked, had coffee, talked some more, and then went for lunch and talked even more! It really felt like we had known each other forever.
I can't imagine being in the position they were in when Bryan was born - no antenatal diagnosis, and no-one in the same situation who had gone before.
After Bryan was diagnosed, they were given the option to take him home and 'let nature take its course' or put him forward for virtually untested surgery, with the odds of success being almost non-existent.
Thankfully, they chose to give him a chance with surgery.
And Bryan has totally smashed through all the prognoses they were given - they were told he would never walk, go to school, live a normal life - and just look at how far he has come.
Truly, without people like Jerry and Lesley, who were brave enough to take that chance, our Charlie's life may have been altogether different.
We were so thrilled to spend some time with them.
Bryan and his wife, Erin, live in Tampa, over on the west of Florida - and they have invited us to lunch at their house, so we are going to drive over there this weekend, and meet them too! Charlie is so excited - Bryan is really like a superhero to him!
Jerry and Lesley are staying with them, so we will be able to catch up with them again too! Can't wait!
So, after what was a totally wonderful morning (during which I bought my brother's birthday present, so I hope it's ok, because I don't think exchanging it is really going to be an option...) we headed back to our hotel.
I thought you might like to see some of the creative towel-folding we come back to every day - obviously the spirit of Easter is really starting to set in, as we had a bunny and a chick today!
Rosie had a snooze and Charlie wrote postcards, while Pete and I chilled out.
Once Rosie woke up, we took the kids to the hotel pool/splash pad. It's all themed with Finding Nemo, which obviously was a huge hit.
I didn't get any pics of Charlie because he spent most of the time under the water, listening to the music from the film that is piped out of underwater speakers.
Rosie ran around the splash pad like a lunatic, and ventured into the big pool for a bit with Pete too.
After such a busy day, it was early nights all round.
Off to the Islands of Adventure tomorrow. Charlie is SO excited to finally get to Harry Potter World!

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