Patinna and her mum Polini Peleti. Photo / George Novak 200421gn08bop.JPG
Patinna with her mum Polini Peleti during her time receiving treatment at Starship Children's Hospital. Photo / Supplied 200421-patinna.JPG
Byline: Emma Houpt
"Mum, I don't want to die without you guys."
Those were the words Patinna uttered to her mum Polini Peleti just before she was supposed to go to a school camp in March 2019.
Hours later, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour and began a year-long battle.
Now recovering well, several businesspeople have chipped in to arrange a dream day of events for the brave 12-year-old.
Patinna woke up that fateful camp morning unable to see out of her left eye and feeling a "weird" sensation in her brain. She couldn't walk in a straight line.
There had been earlier signs she wasn't well, including continuous headaches, but Polini said doctors said it was normal and recommended Paracetamol.
But that day, after an MRI scan at Tauranga Hospital, Patinna was diagnosed with a medulloblastoma brain tumour.
The tumour was the size of a "small apple", Polini said.
"Tinna was ready to go to the camp on that day. She said 'mum I don't want to die without you guys, I don't want to go to the camp'. I got tears in my eyes."
"I was so lucky, if I sent her on that day to the camp, she's gone."
"I felt weird, I don't know how to explain it," Patinna said.
The family flew to Starship Children's Hospital in Auckland where Patinna went into an eight-hour surgery to remove the tumour.
In all, she endured four surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy for more than a year.
"She is so brave," said Peleti.
Right before going into each surgery, Patinna asked the medical staff to pause while she said a prayer.
She also wrote a note to God asking that none of her family members had to experience what she was going through.
Patinna said she was really nervous before having the tumour removed, but only felt "a little sore" after the surgery.
Radiation and chemotherapy took a toll on her. She was in lots of pain and unable to eat.
"It was really hard. We tried to gain her weight, but she didn't want to eat, Poilini said. All her girl wanted to eat was McDonald's, she said with a laugh.
Commuting to Auckland each week proved difficult for Polini and her husband, who were also trying to support their six other children.
Receiving support from their extended family and church community helped them get through the tough time.
"Just only my husband was working in that time. My church, they pray for my family, and they gave us some funding," said Polini.
"It was really hard for me and my husband. It's not easy for us, but thank God we get life for Patinna."
"Mum was having a hard time because my brother was only small. He was only like 1.
And they didn't really have anywhere to sleep in the hospital, they had to sleep in Ronald McDonald [House]," said Patinna.
Since having the tumour removed and going through treatment, Patinna has been recovering well.
"She is really good. She is going back to school for full days. Before she was just doing a half-day," Polini said.
The Tauranga Intermediate student attends check-ups at Tauranga Hospital once a month. She will go to Starship for check-ups until she is 18.
Financial services company One50 group has organised a "dream day" for Patinna which is set for Saturday.
Riding in a helicopter and a Ferrari, meeting some of the All Blacks Sevens players and taking a boat cruise around Tauranga Harbour are just some of the activities planned.
Patinna said she was particularly excited to take a helicopter ride.
One50 group financial adviser James Lowes, who is helping to organise the day, said local businesses and individuals had all pitched to help organise the dream day.
"It is really cool, the generosity of people has been awesome."
Businesspeople pitching in to make the day special include Dale Radford of Heartland Homes, who is taking Patinna out on the launch cruise; Tauranga pilot Lawrence Robinson, who will fly the chopper; and Gary Chettleburgh is taking Patinna for a spin in a Ferrari.