Loss hard for cou­ple

Our grand­chil­dren shouldn’t die be­fore us. Chani had the bub­bli­est per­son­al­ity. She lived her life to the full.

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By LAU­REN PRI­EST­LEY

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.’’

Photo: LAU­REN PRI­EST­LEY

Bro­ken hearts: Tom and An­nie Ca­wood with a pic­ture of their grand­daugh­ter, Chani Ca­wood, who died in an ac­ci­dent this year.

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