Yesterday Michael and I went over to Melbourne for his scheduled check-up at the Royal Children's Hospital. Michael was born with a heart defect that was corrected surgically at RCH when he was a week old. On our last visit 3 years ago his cardiologist was very happy with his progress, and asked for him to come back this year, at age six. He had not been looking forward to the trip at all, so I was very pleasantly surprised that he was terrific all day.
Our flight left at about 9am, and we managed to get him a window seat. It's not all that long since he has been on a plane, but it's still a novelty, and he let out a delighted whoop as we took off. Flying north over Tasmania is always pretty spectacular, but even when we were above the clouds he was thrilled by how fluffy they were. Descending into Melbourne we were above some patchy low cloud, and he said he thought it looked like ice floes.
Our appointment at RCH was not until 2pm, and I had planned that we would spend the morning at the nearby zoo, then maybe spend a while at the Melbourne Museum afterwards if we had time. It happened that in the taxi to the zoo, Michael found a brochure for the museum, and started picking out the parts of it he wanted to see most. I got the vibe that he was much more into the museum than the zoo, so I re-directed the cabbie and we hopped out there instead.
Michael just hummed with delight throughout the museum. I let him lead me wherever he wanted to go, and we probably covered about half of it. He is really fascinated by the human body, and in the cab he decided the Mind, Body, Spirit exhibit was the main one he wanted to see. It is upstairs, so first we spent some time among the obligatory dinosaur skeletons, and visited the insects. Upstairs I craftily let us get slightly lost so that I could look at the History of Melbourne exhibit that I have never quite got to previously. This is where they keep Phar Lap, in a glass case. He certainly was a big fella. For decades this stuffed horse has been the Museum's No. 1 attraction.
The Mind, Body, Spirit exhibit was like all Michael's favourite library books brought to life. I made one error of judgement when I suggested he might like to come into the tiny theatrette and listen to the audio presentation on the history of human dissection. Yes, I know what you're thinking, but he is constantly reading books about this stuff and I thought an audio thing would not be scary. Well, once they got up to the trial of Burke and Hare, the 19th century Edinburgh grave robbers and murderers, I probably should have suggested we move on. When the judge with the hammy Scottish brogue said they would be "taken from this place to another place and hung by the neck until dead, whereupon you will be dissected like so many of your victims..." Michael himself said he had enough and could we leave please. Sigh. Bad dad, bad dad.
Although I did learn that William Harvey, who discovered the circulation of blood, actually dissected his father and sister. Bodies for dissection were so hard to come by, that once they had shuffled off the mortal coil, he simply couldn't pass up the opportunity to have a bit of a peep inside.
We got out into the fresh air and hailed a cab. Michael was right beside me, hailing also, like a tiny cosmopolitan. At the hospital everything went very smoothly. Just as he did when he was 3, Michael seemed determined to be as positive and helpful as he possibly could. He had an ultrasound, and ECG and finally an exercise test. During the ultrasound he was watching the TV set up over the bed, showing a Scooby Doo episode about voodoo dolls and vampire/werewolf types, who did a bit of toothy shape-shifting. It was actually pretty scary, and on top of the Burke and Hare stuff I was thinking they were seeing his little heart probably pumping at full tilt.
For the exercise test he had to have wires taped all over his chest, and then run on a treadmill. It's pretty hard for a 6 year old to do, actually. Every few minutes it sped up a little and the angle increased, so he needed to run faster and steeper uphill. They were attempting to get his heart rate up to a particular "red line" to see how he coped. Before he got there he was feeling tired and asked to stop. They asked him to give it another three minutes, and he did, but he didn't reach the red line. It was still a useful test, but his cardiologist is keen to see him to do it again in three years, when he will be more able to understand the need to push himself.
The hospital visit was finished quite a bit earlier than I had thought. After the museum and the treadmill, I thought what we needed to do was sit down for a while, so we caught a tram going past the hospital and just stayed on to the terminus, on the other side of town near the Domain. I told Michael there was a cafe just up the road where we could have ice cream and coffee. It turned out to be a fair bit further than I remembered. He didn't complain though, just asked if we could sit under a tree and read for a while before we kept walking. I had bought Michael a book at the museum gift shop (another human body book) so we sat and read that for a while. After we had carried on and got ourselves some afternoon tea, Michael sighed and said "I just want to go to the airport and fly home now Dad".
Our flight was not until 7pm, so all we could do was get a tram to the city, get a cab to the airport and hunker down and wait. Jetstar's gate for travellers to and from Hobart is pretty unglamorous. You feel like you are at the arse end of the airport, maybe one step up from the shed where they park the baggage buggies. You have to walk across the tarmac to your plane. No-one still does that at a massive international airport, surely? We do it in Hobart, but that's because we have a tiny Toytown airport.
The flight home was no picnic - it was dark, and squeezy, and we were both tired. Michael was a bit teary. I hadn't packed very well - I had pulled out reading matter we were too tired to read, but left packed away money for snacks, water to drink and chewing gum for sore ears. Of course we touched down eventually, and it was great to see Marcus and Elf. On the drive home from the airport Michael was his old self, and regaled everyone with an astounding level of detail about the day.