A FAM­ILY’S PAINFUL TRIB­UTE TO TENNILLE

Kyabram Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - By CHARMAYNE AL­LISON

LEAV­ING her 40th birth­day party Gir­garre’s Tennille Smith, ever the bossy, or­gan­ised older sis­ter, turned to her brother Tyson and said cheek­ily: “Now don’t for­get, it’s not long un­til Christ­mas. It’s time to start get­ting ready now.” Tennille’s other brother Cobey then dropped by her house be­fore head­ing home. Giv­ing her a fi­nal hug, he thanked her for the great night out. “I’ll talk to you soon,” she said, as al­ways. But she didn’t, and never will. They would be the last words Cobey would ever hear his big sis­ter say. Days later she was ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal after her ap­par­ent cold had mu­tated into some­thing far more sin­is­ter.

By the time Cobey and Tyson Seamer stood at the foot of their sis­ter’s hos­pi­tal bed they were faced with the hor­ror of agree­ing to have her life sup­port turned off.

And for her or­gans to be do­nated to peo­ple who would now get to live as a re­sult of her death.

Tennille, a mother of three and liv­ing in Mel­bourne, had been bat­tling se­vere pneu­mo­nia.

Her body weary from the mer­ci­less in­fec­tion and her brain dam­aged be­yond re­pair from oxy­gen de­pri­va­tion, her med­i­cal team had al­ready made its de­ci­sion to rec­om­mend life sup­port be with­drawn.

But not be­fore they con­sulted Tennille’s fam­ily on do­nat­ing her still healthy or­gans.

It was a place her fam­ily could not have imag­ined in their wildest dreams.

A de­ci­sion they never imag­ined they’d have to even con­sider, let alone make.

But it only took a split-sec­ond for them all to reach the same an­swer.

Tennille — beloved wife, mother, daugh­ter, sis­ter and friend — had lived her life with un­bri­dled gen­eros­ity. She would have wanted to do­nate her or­gans.

Sure enough, a quick check of the records con­firmed what Tennille’s fam­ily had al­ready known—she had reg­is­tered to do­nate not once, but twice.

It was the fi­nal gift from a woman who had ded­i­cated her life to help­ing oth­ers.

The next few hours were a blur as the doc­tors com­pleted a se­ries of checks, search­ing for re­cip­i­ents and prepar­ing for a fi­nal surgery which would end Tennille’s life, but save oth­ers.

“It was shat­ter­ing to know she was go­ing to die,” Cobey said.

Now don’t for­get, it’s not long un­til Christ­mas. It’s time to start get­ting ready now. I’ll talk to you soon’ Tennille Smith died 19 days later, never speak­ing to her brother again

❝It’s so im­por­tant to get to the doc­tors and get tested. We don’t want for any­one to go through the same pain we have❞

“WE WERE so proud of her for do­nat­ing her or­gans, but we didn’t want for her to suf­fer any more.

“While the doc­tors were con­fi­dent she wasn’t in any pain at the time, we didn’t want to make her wait any longer. We just wanted for her to pass on peace­fully.”

Tennille’s jour­ney to that hos­pi­tal bed be­gan softly, with a cold.

It was Oc­to­ber 8, her 40th birth­day, and Tennille, hus­band Tim and their chil­dren Bai­ley, 13, Cooper, 9, and Harper, 20 months, gath­ered with fam­ily and friends to cel­e­brate at a lo­cal homestead.

A cold had crept its way through the fam­ily and Tennille was its lat­est vic­tim. But she wasn’t about to let a red nose get in the way of a good night out.

After sev­eral hours of laugh­ter and con­ver­sa­tion the evening came to a close and the fam­ily filed out the door of the homestead, stom­achs full, the kids’ heads droop­ing sleep­ily.

When Tennille did present at hos­pi­tal with flu-like symp­toms, she came back clear when tested. Doc­tors di­ag­nosed her with se­vere pneu­mo­nia.

Days later, her blood pres­sure plum­meted, cut­ting the sup­ply of oxy­gen to her brain and caus­ing se­vere brain dam­age.

On Oc­to­ber 27, doc­tors made the med­i­cal de­ci­sion to turn off life sup­port.

Since Tennille’s death her fam­ily has rapidly be­come em­broiled in fierce de­bate over the qual­ity of this year’s flu vac­cine.

Some doc­tors are blam­ing the batch of flu vac­cine for the stag­ger­ing num­ber of deaths this year, claim­ing there were bet­ter op­tions avail­able.

How­ever, Tennille’s broth­ers are work­ing to shift the fo­cus off of med­i­cal de­bate, hop­ing in­stead their sis­ter’s tragic pass­ing will be a vi­tal re­minder for peo­ple to visit a GP if they suf­fer flu-like symp­toms.

“Un­for­tu­nately, Tennille stayed in bed. It’s so im­por­tant to get to the doc­tors and get tested,” Cobey said.

“We don’t want for any­one to go through the same pain we have.”

Tyson and Cobey also re­gret that po­lit­i­cal de­bate eclipsed the mem­ory of who Tennille was to her fam­ily, friends and com­mu­nity. Tennille’s story be­gan in Gir­garre. The el­dest daugh­ter of Garry and Karen Seamer, she grew up with her mum and dad, nan and pa and two broth­ers on the fam­ily farm.

It was an idyl­lic child­hood, with sum­mers spent swim­ming in the ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nels and win­ters spent at­tend­ing lo­cal footy games.

She climbed through the ranks in lo­cal schools—from kindy and pri­mary school in Gir­garre to high school at Kyabram Se­condary Col­lege— mak­ing life­long friend­ships along the way.

The kids trea­sured the end of the year when they’d go away for an an­nual beach trip. A tra­di­tion which Tennille—al­ways the glue of the fam­ily—kept alive through the years.

After Year 12, Tennille stud­ied nurs­ing at La­trobe Univer­sity in Wodonga, even­tu­ally ful­fill­ing her dream of be­com­ing a neona­tal in­ten­sive care nurse.

“In her job, she looked after ba­bies who were born pre­ma­turely or who were un­well,” Tyson said.

“It was an emo­tional job for her, as she had three young chil­dren, but she was so pas­sion­ate about it. She was a very car­ing, com­pas­sion­ate, lov­ing per­son and she was made for that job.”

While studying, Tennille met her hus­band Tim, who was in the army. After mov­ing to Dar­win and back sev­eral times, they even­tu­ally set­tled in Mel­bourne, where she be­gan work­ing at the Mercy Hos­pi­tal for Women.

While nurs­ing was high on Tennille’s list, she was most proud of her mar­riage to Tim and of her three chil­dren.

“Tennille was very big on mak­ing one-on-one time for her chil­dren. One week she’d take Bai­ley to the movies, the next she’d take Cooper out for din­ner,” Cobey said.

Shar­ing a close bond with their mum, the boys couldn’t help but em­u­late her gen­eros­ity.

Each Christ­mas they would sit down with her to sort through toys, bag­ging up any un­wanted items for kids in need.

And that le­gacy of gen­eros­ity will con­tinue.

Less than a week ago, Tim took his kids out for din­ner and asked them what they wanted to do with their mum’s be­long­ings.

While the loss of their mother was still fresh in their minds, the boys were quick to look be­yond their cur­rent strug­gles.

Echo­ing the phi­los­o­phy his mum had lived out from her first day to her fi­nal breath, nine-year-old Cooper re­sponded firmly, without a hint of hes­i­ta­tion.

“We could do­nate them to some­one who needs them.”

Tennille’s brother Cobey has launched a GoFundMe page to sup­port her and Tim’s chil­dren Bai­ley, Cooper and Harper. The page has al­ready raised nearly $40 000. To give, go to www.gofundme.com/ynms56-flow­er­free-4-bai­ley-cooper-harper

PRE­CIOUS MEM­O­RIES: Tennille Smith pic­tured with her broth­ers Tyson and Cobey Seamer. They shared her 40th birth­day party and then she was gone.

LOV­ING FAM­ILY — Tennille Smith pic­tured with hus­band Tim and their three chil­dren, Bai­ley, 13, Cooper, 9, and Harper, 20 months.

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