Greer's long trip to the school gate
Five years ago, Anna Bolitho could not visualise the day her newborn daughter Greer would start school.
Born prematurely at 25 weeks, Greer weighed just 840 grams (1lb 13oz). She was so young that her eyelids were sealed shut, and her fingers were no thicker than matchsticks.
She spent three months in hospital, and another two months on oxygen at home.
"We couldn't imagine one year, let alone five," Mrs Bolitho said.
But next week Greer, now a boisterous young girl, will start at Richmond Primary for the first time, after celebrating her fifth birthday in early December.
Mrs Bolitho said Greer's kindy, Richmond's Waverley Street Kindergarten, had been "fantastic" at preparing her for school, and Greer has already met her teacher for this year and checked out her new classroom.
"It's a bit scary," Mrs Bolitho said.
"This is exactly what we struggled for. It's going to be an exciting year."
It's been a long journey for the family, including James, 7, and Greer's father, Ben.
"We didn't think five years would ever come. We've both got a lot greyer," Mrs Bolitho said.
The health problems that plagued Greer early on have cleared up, and there is just one more operation remaining: a procedure next month to remove a cyst on her eye, caused by prematurity and resulting in a dark spot in her vision.
Mrs Bolitho said son James had played an enormous role in getting his little sister to the point she is today, spending hours playing and helping her.
"He has been the biggest contributor to how she's turned out," she said.
"He's really wonderful with her."
Greer enjoyed her ballet stage debut last year, loves riding her scooter, and is looking forward to taking her books to school inside her new purple bookbag.
She can keep up with the family on walks and bike rides now, and her mother said she was incredibly determined.
"I have never seen a more stubborn child."
The Bolithos still keep in touch with a group of parents they met in Wellington Hospital's neonatal unit, and have remained close-knit, fundraising together in the past for the Neonatal Trust.
Mrs Bolitho has advice for other parents going through similar troubles with premature babies: "Just take it one day at a time."
The Nelson Mail