The heartbreaking reason Luke is back on Survivor
WITH a six-week-old baby girl at home, who had just been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, Australian Survivor larrikin Luke Toki made the difficult decision to leave his young family for a second tilt at winning the $500,000 on offer.
The Perth mining technician, a fan favourite from the second season of the Channel 10 reality series, and his wife Mary have two sons, Lennox and Nate, who have autism and global development delay (GDD) respectively, and baby Madeline's diagnosis of cystic fibrosis meant additional medications, physio therapy and specialist appointments for life.
Toki will return as a champion on the new season of Australian Survivor: Champions V Contenders in an effort to support his young family.
"Madeline was six weeks old when I left. I can't emphasise enough, it was a very hard decision for me to go ahead, but $500,000 can boost the lifestyle that my children can potentially have," Toki told Confidential.
The couple had endured a difficult journey to fall pregnant with Madeline after Mary was diagnosed with severe endometriosis and underwent gruelling surgery that took six months to recover from.
On March 11, Madeline was born with intestinal atresia and was immediately whisked away from her mother to a second hospital in Perth, where she underwent surgery within a day of being born.
After three weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit and in depth genetic testing, two rare genes were found which led to the diagnosis of cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening disorder that damages the lungs and digestive system. She later underwent a second surgery.
"Babies are fragile and to be able to go through two surgeries and right now she's looking at me smiling it just shows that she's a survivor like her dad," Toki said.
"Life is crazy at home but I wouldn't have it any other way."
"There's a lot to look forward to. The baby's healthy, the boys are healthy."
Toki, who had a close bond with eventual winner Jericho Malabonga in season two, said the second time on Survivor was a greater challenge.
"The second time around it's like, this is killing me, not being able to eat and the challenges were extremely physical and mentally draining and obviously just being away, it was harder than the last time I felt," he said.
"The idea for me was not to go in with too much of a plan and try to enjoy myself and see how far that got me. I tried not to g o in there with a blueprint because as soon as you have a plan in that game it pretty much turns to mud quicker than you can think, so it was definitely a hard knock."
The new season of Australian Survivor premieres on July 24.