Robbie

At 14 years old I saw myself as a future 'Peter Snell'. Not being very academic, I didn't love school and often felt I was a bit thick. I was a very fast runner, and that was something I took great pride in.

The north island secondary school running championships was held on a scorching hot day. The sky was electric blue, without even a cloud to give a brief reprieve from the heat. I had been unable to sleep the night before, as I was so excited about this day. It was the highlight and start of my future.

I lined up with forty others, ready to start the 3000 meter running race.

The start gun sounded, and I quickly made it into the top 10 runners. After the first 5 laps, the real race began. The guy beside me was pushing me with his shoulder and I thought to myself, "it's now or never". So I put my foot down and got up to 3rd place. All of a sudden 5 of us broke away from the pack and formed a tight leading group. The pace just got faster and already people started to drop back from the front runners. At a lap and a half to go, I was still sitting in third place and we were still in a tight group. One lap to go and the guy in first put his foot down. I knew I couldn't let him get away so I gave it everything I had and passed the guy in front of me. As we crossed the finish line I knew I had come second. But the huge disappointment was quickly overtaken by a strange pulling sensation on the left side of my face. I sat clumsily down on the edge of the track as my head started jerking violently to the side.

I had no idea what was happening to me but I was fully aware of what was going on around me. After a minute my friends started crossing the finish line and I could see them standing right in front of me, pointing and laughing. I tried to ask for water but I couldn't talk properly and it just made them laugh more.

Finally the jerking slowed down and then came to a stop. I eventually got up and went and sat in the grandstand and tried to reason with myself, guessing what could have possibly just happened.

I never told anyone about what happened that day at the race track. I just put it down to being a weird reaction from being so tired.

At that point in my life, I was the second fastest 3000 meter runner in the North Island but my true love was soccer. On the soccer field was where I felt alive, skilled and valued. Being on the field scoring goals was what I lived for.

A few weeks after that race in the middle of the night, my Mum woke up to hear loud banging. She came into my room to find my whole body violently jerking. My head jerking to the left, arms and legs flailing. My terrified mum phoned for an ambulance.

The next day I was having a myriad of tests, including a CAT scan and MRI.

I was sent to a neurologist who explained that an area of my brain had enlarged blood vessels and arteries. He told me this carried a number of risks including a brain haemorrhage. I wanted this 'thing' fixed, but the final blow came when he told me it was so large and dangerous that it was inoperable. Just to add insult to injury, he informed me that my running and soccer days were over as the risks were just too high.

So there I am, 15 and being told I had to stop doing all the things I love and the only things I thought I was any good at. I lost all my close friends because I couldn't play soccer anymore. Friends lost because I couldn't stand sitting on the sideline watching and wanting to get out there and play. Most days my body felt normal so I couldn't understand why I couldn't be out there. This was one of the hardest things I've ever been faced with, 15, can't do what I love and next to no friends.

I kept having seizures. Sometimes 3 or 4 a day and as many a 7. I remember sitting on my bed crying out to God "Why me, what did I do to deserve this. I just want to be normal". I didn't know God at all but I found myself talking to him. Even if it was cursing him, I was acknowledging him.

I dropped out of school at 15 because I just didn't want to have more fits in front of people and having them laugh at me again. I went from the guy that everyone wanted to watch race at school to the guy with the doctors note saying I can't compete anymore.

I got a job pumping gas for a couple of years and fell in and out of depression. I then started smoking dope and to me it hid all the bad feelings and gave me a false sense of security none the less I continued having seizures.

Eventually I met a girl who went by the name of Jacqui. She saw me have heaps seizures and knew the risks and life sentence I had been given, yet still when I asked her to marry me she said 'yes'.

We looked at other possible options to fix my brain but everyone we asked said "no can't do it". Sydney said we can't operate. We couldn't use Gamma Knife Radiation as it would damage other parts of the brain. Doctors said the only reason they would remove that part of my brain would be if I had a massive trauma to my brain because it would make me a vegetable. Sometimes I wished that would happen.

Then, at 33 we found some amazing doctors that said they could fix me. The catch was it cost $200,000 and could only be done in Germany. To top it all off the only possible appointment date was in 7 weeks.

We had so little time. Two days later we started on Facebook and we were in the NZ Herald. From there things just snowballed. My cause was set up on Give-A-Little. We watched the funds increase by over ten thousand everyday and within 6 days people had donated over $100,000. Humbling is all I can say.

One week in and half way there. That's when the large donations slowed down and the hard work began. With a team of around 20 people, my home town became a buzz with raising funds to get me to Germany.

I started seeing my face in shop windows everywhere. Also in all the papers and TV. The shops had been raising money without even telling us. We would go into a shop and they would hand us a bag with hundreds of coins that people had given. The schools also started coming forward saying they had had a bake sale and sausage sizzle and here's the money we raised for you. Again bags and bags of coins.

All these tiny individual donations of coins started adding up and the power of giving a coin started to become clear. Kids were able to see that by giving just a small amount each, altogether they were making a real difference.

Between all these donations and the big events we had planned, we reached our $200,000 target with just days to spare.

The final six weeks were crazy. Filled with joy excitement and then terror for what lay ahead. The next test was leaving our boys at home. Kissing them goodbye with the possibility of never seeing them again was unbearable. Six weeks of not seeing my boys every morning and night. It was the first time I'd ever had to try and act not being scared in order to not worry them. It's fair to say I did a pretty miserable job holding my emotions in. I hope and pray I never have to hug my kids like that again.

Our journey started with a taxi ride to the airport then a flight to Germany with a quick stop in Singapore. Complete strangers picked us up and took us to their home then gave it to us to use while they went away. Amazing people who became our German parents.

Check in day came and we were getting ready to go to the hospital. As I was getting in the shower I had another seizure. After getting through the jet lag I thought I was safe, but turns out I wasn't.

We eventually made it to the hospital and got to our room where we met the most amazing neurologist ever. This guy spoke to us like we were equal. Not something we were used to as the neurologists in New Zealand in my experience have absolutely no bedside manners. We felt reassured that we were in good hands.

13th of August 2013, operation day. I got dressed into a beautiful hospital gown and said good bye to my wife, not knowing what the future held for us. Would I be the same person I was before the operation? Would I be able to move all of my body? Will I be paralysed? Would I even be alive?!

The next thing I remember is waking up and thinking why I hadn't had my operation yet? I felt extremely annoyed that someone else was going in to get their operation before me when I'd already been waiting so long. Turns out I'd already had my operation and been asleep for hours. Apparently when I woke up my first words were "I need a piss". This was not the reception my wife was expecting after the ordeal she had just been through. Waiting and waiting to see if I was still the same person she left earlier in the day. Turns out that after the drugs wore off, I was.

The doctors told us that I would have lots of large seizures after the operation. They said even people that don't normally have seizures will have them simply because they had been in and "tickled my brain", their words not mine. As it happened I had none.

After a night in ICU I was allowed back to my room. The next 5 nights were amazing. Normally if I don't get enough sleep I'll have a number of fits the next day. For the next 5 nights I got 10 hours sleep in total. That's right just 2 hours a night and still no seizures. The doctors were amazed.

Why did I get such a small amount of sleep? Over those 5 nights I was up nearly all night writing and writing and writing. Remembering my fundraising journey and all the people that took part. As I wrote I started to form a vision of how I can give back. How I can help others that are in the same position I was. The thing that stuck in my mind was all the kids and shops giving me their donations in the form of coins. Thousands of coins!

What if I could have asked 200,000 people for a dollar each? But where do you go to ask that many people at once? There's nowhere! This is when the concept was born. That's right, sitting on a hospital bed in Germany. It didn't have a name yet, just a concept.

Finally we got home a month after the operation with no seizures and seeing our boys. The biggest hugs and kisses. They said "did you bring us lollies?". Kids aye! Seeing our family and friends was just what we needed.

Over the next 8 months this concept took shape into what is now known as One Dollar Warriors and you're here to be a part of it. So come and join us help save New Zealanders lives one dollar at a time.

MEET OUR FIRST BUSINESS WARRIORS, SUZI AND STEVE FROM CAFFESSO - PROVIDERS OF THE AWARD-WINNING NESPRESSO COMPATIBLE CAPSULE.

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