Captains on the march for son

Captains Tane and Laura North with son Elijah.

“Everyone has their own challenges,” Captain Tane North says. “Ours isn’t worse or harder than anyone else’s. It’s just different.”

The challenge for Tane and his wife, Captain Laura North, is giving son Elijah the best future possible and they’re hitting the road to do it. The 3–1/2-year-old — the third of the couple’s four children — was born with microcephaly and an undiagnosed genetic condition. The microcephaly means he has a small head because of abnormal brain development, and the genetic condition affects most of his body. He cannot speak, is legally blind, is fed through a tube and has a total of 14 health issues.

Elijah has made great progress following four three-week treatment sessions at the Neurological and Physical Abilitation (Napa) Centre in Australia. Laura and Tane want to take him back for more treatment and are aiming to raise the necessary $56,000.

On their #walkforwonderboy mission they will walk 700km from Wellington to Auckland and it’s no coincidence that they’re doing it by foot: “We can, he can’t.”

“It’s one of those things I don’t even have to think about, whereas Elijah loves to walk but it’s such a struggle for him,” Laura, 33, says.

“We’re just so able bodied and we don’t appreciate it.”

“He’s got a never-say-die attitude and a determination to try to walk, to try to move. He doesn’t know that he can’t walk. To him he can,” Tane, 38, says.

They’ll walk up to 80km a day, broken up into four blocks that they’ll alternate. Laura will take the starting leg each day and plans to hit the road early once she has Elijah and his baby sister, Thea, sorted for the day. That’s easier said than done, given Elijah’s needs and the fact Thea has Down syndrome.

The Norths say their two older children, 10-year-old Ellamae and five-year-old TJ, are great with their younger siblings, and happily share their journeys should anyone ask.

“They’re probably quite blessed to have siblings like them because in the long run they get to look at the world in a very different way,” Laura says.

“They’re pretty amazing kids, and I think I forget that sometimes because your family just becomes your norm.”

“Whether your child’s just not good at maths or not good at catching a ball, as a parent you worry about those things — there’s no rank to it,” Tane says.

The family has had the full support of the Army and the NZDF since having Elijah, from having time off for specialist appointments and hospital stays to moving from Waiouru to Trentham to be closer to experts.

The #walkforwonderboy mission has attracted a huge amount of support from Trentham Military Camp, where both are based.

Camp Commandant Major Jim Maguire says Trentham is a close-knit community of military and civilian workers, contractors and families.

“We are very proud of that closeness and supportiveness, and Elijah and the Norths give us all a focus for that unity of effort,” he says.

“We see one of our families working really hard to stay ahead of the game and we admire the resilience and strength of the whole whanau.”

He says Elijah sometimes comes into work with Laura, and recently barged into his office on his walker.

“I look forward to the day that he will barge in without his walker.”

#walkforwonderboy leaves Pukeahu, Wellington, on 13 March, arriving at the Auckland War Memorial on 23 March. Follow the journey on www.facebook.com/elijahwonderboynorth

You can contribute to Elijah’s treatment at givealittle.co.nz #walkforwonderboy