Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

'We are here now. We made it'

Jordan Ieremia, top left, was reunited with his ailing grandfather, Malo To'oala. Photo / Jordan Iremia
Jordan Ieremia, top left, was reunited with his ailing grandfather, Malo To'oala. Photo / Jordan Iremia

Seven words were all Malo To'oala needed to hear.

The 68-year-old has worsening cancer and family feared his grandson Jordan Ieremia might not make it home to Auckland when an eye injury left the 18-year-old temporarily grounded. Family launched a public bid a week ago to find a ship's passage across the Tasman from Ieremia's new home in Sydney, after he was told by doctors not to fly until at least May 24.

Those worries ended in smiles yesterday afternoon, when Ieremia, his younger brother and father arrived at To'oala's hospice bedside.

"I said 'we are here now. We made it'," Ieremia told the New Zealand Herald tonight.

"It was priceless what we saw. He had the biggest smile. He kept looking at me and my little brother to check it was really us. He told us to hold his hand and he was thanking God for guiding us over."

Since the reunion his grandpa, who had worsened earlier in the week, had improved.


"As soon as we came he started eating quite a bit more. It was a massive boost."

Ieremia, a New South Wales under-18 rugby rep, fractured his eye socket in a game last month and needed eye surgery. Doctors told him the pressure during a flight could cause permanent damage to the nerves in his eye.

So while other family rushed to To'oala's bedside, Ieremia was stranded 2000 kilometres away, desperate to see the man who helped raise him before he emigrated to Australia three years ago.

The family investigated cruise and freight ship passage, and even a low-pressure private plane, but couldn't find a solution.

Following publicity in the Herald on Sunday they were contacted by several people, including Maersk Line, who had a cargo ship sailing from Brisbane to Auckland today. It is due to arrive in four days, Ieremia said.

Although he turned the berth down, deciding after talking with eye specialists to fly, he was grateful for the support received.

"Thank you to everyone who gave support and made offers. And to [Totara Hospice South Auckland clinical director] James Jap, he's been a massive help to us as a family."

There was a small risk he could have suffered permanent nerve damage by flying, but it was one he was willing to take, Ieremia said.

"I'm here now, that's what matters ... I'll be here as long as I'm needed."

There might be one casualty from Ieremia's journey. He sucked his way through almost a whole packet of Minties during the three hour flight, a precaution to ease the effects of the pressure inside the cabin.

"I'm pretty sick of them now."

- NZ Herald

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