In Memory of
1989 - 2014
Kari-Lee would have laughed if I told her she was amazing.
Quiet, unassuming and humble, she hated to be the centre of attention. Yet she touched the hearts and lives of thousands of people around the world, as evidenced by the almost one thousand people who attended her funeral and the hundreds of others around the world who sent tributes, messages, emails and Facebook posts following her death in October 2014.
Born with cystic fibrosis, a genetic, life threatening condition which affects many organs of the body, but most importantly the lungs and digestive system, Kari lived life always with the shadow of CF hanging over her, yet never ever allowed it to define her. From her diagnosis at six weeks of age, she endured hours of daily treatments, hundreds of tablets a week, regular hospital visits and admissions lasting three weeks on several strong intravenous antibiotics and intensive physiotherapy as part of "normal" life for her.
If you met Kari though, none of that would be apparent to you. She lit up a room as she entered, she sparkled through life with a can-do, glass-more-than-half-full attitude. She quietly made people feel welcome and cared about. She drew them in with her genuine interest and zest for life.
Even as a child, Kari-Lee was inspirational. In primary school she won the Clem Davies trophy for Overcomers. As she grew, she gave of herself in many ways, including being a volunteer life saver at Alexandra Headlands and twice taking a Christmas programme to isolated outback schools.
She then went on to achieve not only academic excellence, but win the coveted "Spirit of the College" awarded to one Year 12 student at Suncoast each year. In spite of spending 12 weeks in hospital during that year, Kari not only completed Year 12 with a great OP score, she also passed two University subjects.
After finishing school, Kari continued to blossom, completing a Diploma of Photoimaging and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Italian. In later years she commenced a Bachelor of Paramedics and, although interrupted by her lung transplant, continued studying until her death.
This was also when her love of travel came to the fore and she visited around 40 countries as she lived her life to the full, knowing her time might be shorter than most. She volunteered in Vanuatu teaching children in an area where there were no school. Kari-Lee also had the privilege of representing the University of the Sunshine Coast in Italy where she studied for 8 months, completing all her classes and exams in Italian (which she started learning only two years earlier). All of this took great courage for a girl who still needed daily lung therapy and multiple daily medications (22 doses a day!).
Kari's sense of adventure took her to Egypt and later to Central and South America where she fulfilled a dream of dancing in the Canivale parade in Rio. Other parents of young adults with cystic fibrosis have been amazed at all that Kari achieved in her short life. They have told me they have never known anyone with CF who did all the adventurous and brave things Kari achieved.
Kari loved to dance and throughout her life learned many different styles, the last being Latin. She helped set up the Sunshine Coast Latin Dance Club and volunteered many many hours with them and with Rio Rhythmics in Brisbane.
Kari always had a compassionate heart and longed to help others less fortunate than her. She dreamed of volunteering at Watoto orphanage in Africa, but sadly didn't live to do this. She sponsored several children from her high school years until her death.
Her courage truly shone in the last two years of her life, when her health drastically deteriorated, after getting glandular fever. She spent most of 2013 and 2014 in hospital, taking a week out for her honeymoon after marrying her beloved Tom. She fought valiantly, but needed a double-lung transplant, which she received on her 25th birthday. It was initially extremely successful and we all rejoiced at the new life ahead of her. Sadly, after just 9 weeks complications arose.
Kari courageously battled for her life, enduring horrendous medication side effects, the removal of two infected lobes of her beautiful new lungs, countless invasive medical procedures and shocking pain - always uncomplaining, with grace, faith and hope. In spite of all of this and the prayers of thousands, her lungs could not be saved and the infection spread throughout her body. As she was being prepared to come home for her last couple of days, doctors, nurses and cleaners all came to honour Kari, to tell her what a difference she had made to them and to say goodbye. Sadly, she never got to make the journey home and with her final breaths she thanked us individually, dying as she lived: brave, grateful and thoughtful - a truly amazing woman.
One of her favourite sentiments was,
"Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we should dance.'' And that she did.
As her parting advice on her FaceBook page four hours before she died, she wrote…
"I just want to say love all people, respect others and be grateful for the little things in life. Peace out.''
Funds raised will go towards helping those living with Cystic Fibrosis on the Sunshine Coast to improve their quality of life and allow them to have more of those precious moments of fun that every kid deserves.
Thank you for your support