Tina’s Story ... from tragedy to triumph

“He was very special and extremely brave and has taught us all lessons and we all miss him so much.” – This is how Tina Botha describes her first born son Chris Corlett.

In August of 1997 Tina faced every mother’s worst nightmare, her son Chris was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia whilst in Grade 9. He underwent 6 months of gruelling chemotherapy and full body radiation. This was the start of a 3 year nightmare for Tina and her family. In February 1998 Chris had his first bone marrow transplant. This was an autologous transplant with a harvest from his own blood as there were no compatible family donors and they were not doing unrelated transplants at that stage. By July 1998 Chris was back at school. As a family they were optimistic that Chris now faced a healthy future and during this time he had even managed to travel to Durban to the "Gunston 500" surfing championships with "Reach for a Dream". Chris had great plans for his future with art and graphic design always being the most important to him.

Tina’s bubble burst in March 1999 when Chris suffered a relapse. The leukaemia was back with a vengeance and Chris had to decide whether he wanted to give up or fight back and try again. The worst thing was that Chris had been through hell and now he knew exactly what to expect if he decided to do it again. As only Chris could do he decided to tackle it head on and began another 6 months of tortuous treatment. This time he had to have an unrelated matched donor transplant. This meant an urgent search for a match for him and only 6 months in which to do this. It was at this point that Tina realised what a terrible state the South African Bone Marrow Registry was in and how remote the odds were of finding a match.

Tina was with Chris when he very suddenly slipped away. “I was able to hold him and talk to him and tell him I loved him. His whole family was there and I will never forget that day”.

Chris was a surfer who rode the crest of life with courage and honour facing each and every battle bravely. This character surely comes from a special mother who loved beyond measure, fighting for life for her son. She continues to ride the waves with their peaks and dips, nothing deterring her from keeping Chris’ dream alive – let no one else lose their “Chris” unnecessarily – surely this demonstrates how each and every one of us can make that special difference?

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