Loss hard for couple
Our grandchildren shouldn’t die before us. Chani had the bubbliest personality. She lived her life to the full.
LIFE hasn’t been easy for Tom and Annie Cawood.
The South African grandparents moved to New Zealand in the 90s as millionaires but a long medical battle soon drained their bank account.
And more devastating news was to come.
The Herne Bay couple’s 24-yearold granddaughter, Chani Cawood, died in a traffic accident in Vietnam in September. She was working as a teacher in the country at the time. It was heart-breaking, Tom says. ‘‘There were just tears, tears, tears. Our grandchildren shouldn’t die before us. Chani had the bubbliest personality. She lived her life to the full.’’
Tom and Annie couldn’t make it to Vietnam to say goodbye to their granddaughter because of the cost.
Chani’s parents had to get her body cremated because transporting her home was too expensive.
The close family was set back by the accident but is staying strong, Tom says.
Jervois Residential Care, where Tom and Annie live, held a memorial service on October 16.
‘‘We’ve had a tough time. It was heartache when my son phoned me to say she’d been killed. The first thing I could say was: ‘Hell, son, I can’t get there’.
‘‘Our family is so close. Having the service...it eased the pain a little.’’
Tom and Annie came to New Zealand in 1995. Life was good – Annie had just won the South African Businesswoman of the Year award.
Less than a month later she found a lump in her breast. It grew aggressively and doctors said chemotherapy was the best option, Tom says.
Annie had an allergy to the drug which left her with constant nausea and heartburn and affected her memory.
She saw hundreds of doctors, specialists and psychiatrists over the next nine years, most of whom couldn’t find an answer and said the pain was in Annie’s mind. But Tom didn’t give up. He snuck into the Auckland Medical School library for weeks, researching and writing to 60 world-renowned medical professors for help.
Only 15 replied and just one found an answer to the heartburn – Annie had an extremely rare inflammation on the outside of her oesophagus and needed surgery to fix it.
Tom then turned to the nausea and, with the help of another doctor, found a new drug to keep it at bay.
He has been fighting ever since to get the overwhelming medical costs covered by ACC but is yet to be able to prove Annie’s ongoing pain was caused by the chemotherapy.
‘‘I’m not a medical man but I can still read English. I started reading and I couldn’t understand zilch. I had tears running down my eyes and I prayed.
‘‘Annie was a shit-stirring, rockand-roll, brilliant woman. I promised her parents in 1956 that I would look after her, in sickness and health. I think I did my best.’’
Tom and Annie moved from their St Heliers home to a small unit in Birkenhead because of their deflating bank account.
That property turned out to be a leaky building.
They had to abandon it with just the clothes on their backs and $7000 in their bank account, Tom says.
Despite the bumps in the road, they’re not sorry they moved to New Zealand, he says.
‘‘We decided on here because of the sunny skies, the barbecues, the way of life. I’m still not sorry we did that. We’ve had a wonderful life.’’
Broken hearts: Tom and Annie Cawood with a picture of their granddaughter, Chani Cawood, who died in an accident this year.