Kari-Lee Birrell's final act of love before her death
EVEN those who never knew Kari-Lee Birrell were praying for a miracle.
If there was anyone who deserved it, she did.
An IVF miracle baby for her mum, Kari was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was six weeks old.
But she never let it define her. She traveled the world, visiting 44 countries, taking in Tahiti, Taiwan, New Zealand, Europe (living eight months in Italy), Egypt, Cuba, Central America and Brazil.
Despite having one of the rarest types of bacteria in her body since she was a child, she rarely got sick during her travels.
The talented dancer who enjoyed the beach and all things tropical, particularly loved Brazil, fulfilling a dream to dance in the Rio Carnival.
She lived life as if it was a continuous adventure of discovery, being more aware than anyone that her days were finite.
"Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we should dance,'' was one of her favourite sentiments.
Her dream was to take her husband, Tom, 21, who had never been overseas, traveling, to make a home for him, and to have a baby.
The couple married in December despite Kari's health starting to rapidly deteriorate at the beginning of last year.
A double lung transplant in June, on her 25th birthday, gave the young couple new hope.
But the insidious bacteria inside her cruelly had other ideas.
For the past eight weeks in hospital, Kari faced a battle to live. For her family it was roller coaster ride as her body bounced back, and then crashed.
Despite feeding tubes, central lines, surgery to remove an infected lung and the most brutal regime of antibiotics, which caused everything from nausea, restlessness and backache, she never complained.
She willed herself on to live, for Tom. He in turn was by her side in the hospital room every night for more than four and half weeks.
Her mum Rhyl Venning, was also continually with her, along with husband Peter, sister Tiana and other family and friends, including Tom's parents Gavin and Michelle Birrell and Gaye and Bruce Napier.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of Christians across the Sunshine Coast and around the world followed Kari's progress on Facebook as Rhyl and close friend Gaye posted daily updates.
A 40-hour prayer marathon roster was quickly filled.
Everyone was praying for a miracle.
But as young Tom so beautifully put it, Kari became the miracle just after 3pm on Wednesday.
"God could have healed her but he had something better for her,'' dad Peter said, relaying the comforting words of his brother.
"It was a win-win for her,'' Tom said, as he described his bride being given a new body and being ushered into heaven's gates.
"In a way she was the miracle.
"She changed all of our lives,'' he said.
Mum Rhyl said transplant surgeons said they had never seen anyone fight so hard against such incredible odds.
"I have learnt so much from you - not about medicine - but about life,'' one told her.
Kari's family told of her final moments.
Slipping in and out of consciousness, she had a moment of complete clarity as she told Tom how she loved him, thanking him for 'sticking by me'.
She thanked her mum, for all she had done, and then spoke to her dad, thanking him for the many special memories he had created, then spoke to her adopted sister Tiana, and then thanked everyone she knew was in the room with her.
And then in a flash of humour straight out of the movie Anchorman, she quipped: "Well that escalated quickly.''
She had been due to be taken home to die but paramedics never arrived in time.
"Those paramedics are not very punctual are they?'' joked Kari, who had been training to become one.
Struggling for her final breaths, with her husband Tom whispering in one ear and mum Rhyl in the other, she died.
She was not afraid. She knew where she was going.
"It was like she had one foot in heaven and one foot here,'' Gaye said.
While the family say they will struggle with losing her so young, and experience the pain of not having Kari with them, they are comforted by the thought of her dancing in heaven, free from pain and suffering.
A celebration of Kari's life will be held at Suncoast Church at Kiel Mountain Road, Woombye from 2pm, next Saturday. Everyone is welcome. Wear bright colours and prepare for some Brazilian music.
To help out Tom go to www.gofundme.com/Kari-and-Tom
KARI'S PARTING ADVICE ON FACEBOOK
FOUR HOURS BEFORE SHE DIED
"I just want to say love all people, respect others and be grateful for the little things in life. Peace out.''