MANILLA’S little fighter, Patrick Coombes, had the surprise of his life with a visit to Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo yesterday.
Accompanied by his mother, Emma, sister Olivia and grandparents Rod and Denise Everingham, Patrick underwent intense radiation treatment for an inoperable brain tumour only hours before boarding his Little Wings flight.
The visit was a complete surprise to Patrick and his grandparents, who thought they were boarding the plane to fly home.
Dubbo mayor Mathew Dickerson welcomed the family before they headed to the zoo in what Patrick called the “bat car”, which was a Cadillac from Be Seen Limousines.
Battling the tumour since the diagnosis in July, Patrick leaves his home in Manilla each weekend for his week-long stay at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead.
Having trouble coping with her mother’s absence, six-year-old Olivia has recently started making the trip to Sydney with her sibling.
Patrick’s grandfather, Rod Everingham, said it had been a very difficult time for the family.
“Richard and Emma are originally from Wauchope but now run a dairy farm in Manilla,” he said.
“It is not easy for both parents to be away.
“The family takes it in turns to go and stay with Emma and Olivia at Ronald McDonald House when Patrick goes down for treatment.
“The generosity of people wanting to help has been overwhelming.”
Equally, Mrs Coombes has been amazed and grateful by the support of Little Wings, the organisation that helped make Patrick’s zoo visit a reality.
“Little Wings fly us to Sydney each Sunday night so that Patrick can have his treatment early Monday morning. We try and get out of the hospital as much as we can – to spend a day at the zoo is fantastic,” she said.