Dubai friday brunch
It seemed a long time ago that we had set off down the M6 with a suitcase full of rugby memorabilia and stickers to take the flight over to sunny Dubai.
This was our second trip away as a family since Jack's diagnosis. I tried hard to look forward to the trip but knew full well, this time, we were going there for a completely different reason.
We were going to help save my son's life.
There were many reasons why it made sense for us to go to Dubai.
We got married there in 2007 and we have some dear friends there who have shown us that they are desperate to help us with our cause to find a cure for Duchenne.
I would personally like to thank Andrew Wingrove, Rebecca Selby and Marc Jones for their fantastic support and help in making sure the trip went according to plan. Also to Sally Meech and all the staff at Media One hotel for there commitment and professionalism in everything they did.
As you have already read, we were joined on the trip by Shaun Edwards and his partner Maggie, Andrew Farrell, Kris Radlinski, Gary Connolly and Stuart Green from BD2. It was great to see the boys and it wasn't long before we were called upon for radio interviews and press conferences.
I can say everyone of them were very professional in everything that they did. We were there to deliver a message and that we did!
At the same time we had Jack with us and people could relate more to the story we were telling. Everybody in Dubai who heard about joiningjack were moved by our situation and were committed to help.
The Friday brunch went very well and as we walked into the dining area and saw the ice sculptured JJ logo I was immediately assured and impressed how Dubai never fails to deliver! For me one of the most difficult parts of the day was when I was asked to say a few words.
I knew I would have to do this before the Brunch but I'd decided not to think about it. I thought I'd just stand up and speak from the heart. When you are so passionate about something I thought I'll be able to do it, I don't need a script. The thing is over my playing career I stayed well clear of cameras and presentations because I don't actually like public speaking. Everyone at my brothers wedding will tell you that!
So when the time came I was really nervous.
There I was at the front of the stage, needing to get a message across to everyone. I desperately tried to think of a first sentence that would start me off well. Once I delivered that first line I knew I would be okay. With all my nerves though I had to politely tell the guy to give me a minute before I took the microphone.
Once I began I spoke as it is; I am in the most difficult situation any parent could find themselves in. This is so difficult to talk about and it doesn't get any easy even though I've had to speak like this a number of times now. No matter how many interviews or groups of people I speak in front of I think it will always be the same. It is the most important thing in the world to me, I want to save Jack's life.
Even once I was off and speaking to the people at the Brunch it got to me again and I found it overwhelmingly difficult. There was one point where I couldn't continue and I had to stop to compose myself. It felt like an hour passed as I tried to gather myself, the room was in complete silence and everyone waited for me until I was ready to carry on.
My great pal Rads leaned forward and asked "AJ; you ok mate? Do you want me to take over". But I said I that I was okay I found my voice again and was able to continue with the details I had to deliver. I think I must have managed to do a good job after all. The brunch was made of a range of different people from families, rugby guys and people from the hotel and I was told after that there wasn't a dry eye in sight.
I'm really glad that I'm able to get the message across and touch peoples hearts. But Alex and I are living with this everyday and sometimes it is hard to carry on.
Before we left for Dubai I had asked Rad to compose a DVD about Duchenne and our family. I knew it would be difficult to watch and found myself still sat at the table when it was put on and reluctant to go and see what I'd asked him to make. I tried my best to watch it but as soon as Jack's face came on all the TV monitors I broke down and had to head for the door. I sat outside at the side of the pool and waited until I heard the soundtrack finish.
It had hit me really hard again.
How have we ended up in this terrible situation?
But I couldn't just sit there, once the music had finished I headed back into the restaurant and was met by Rad who was wiping a tear from his eye and also heading for the door. I hugged him and we said nothing for a moment as we both walked on.
I know this is killing us, me and my wife, but I also know others are hurting too. Myself, Rads and Shaun Edwards sat in a tent behind the brunch and had a quiet beer. Very little was said and we knew we had delivered a strong message to a small group of people. This is where my life is now.
The days worrying about ordinary things, things that don't matter like a bigger car or a new pair of shoes is over. The only thing that matters to me is finding a treatment for Duchenne.
We managed to get a few days rest as a family at the end of the week and did our best to switch off. We did our best, but it never leaves you. Overall though the trip to Dubai was a massive success. We have shown a lot of people that we mean business and we have an extremely strong message to get over. We are building a team that will change the world because if we don't I will walk into Jack's room and he won't be there.
That is not an option