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Sisters help fight disease that claimed sister

Shepparton's Renee Gilchrist was just a teenager when she died after a life-long battle with cystic fibrosis, and her sisters are now honouring her memory by taking raising funds for Cystic Fibrosis Australia with a charity dinner.

ALEXANDRA BOLKAS June 23, 2014 3:53am

Lyn Gilchrist, Tracey Botterill and Vanessa Crockett.


Renee Gilchrist’s sisters remember how her booming laughter would spill down the hallways of the Royal Children’s Hospital.

Her life-long battle with cystic fibrosis — a genetic disorder that affects the lungs and digestive system — meant the Shepparton teenager was no stranger to hospitals.

But whether she was pulling pranks on their mum or imitating characters in popular TV shows, Vanessa Crockett said it was happiness that filled their short time with Renee.

‘‘Renee had this calico bag full of plastic spiders which she would use to scare Mum,’’ she said. ‘‘She also liked to mimic comedy shows and we were always laughing at funny movies or things we’d seen on TV.’’

She said often the noise coming from Renee’s hospital room was so loud it raised the curiosity of other families.

‘‘They’d hear laughter in her room when she was on admissions and come down to see what the ruckus was about,’’ Mrs Crockett said.

‘‘But it was just our family laughing and making the best of the situation.’’

Mrs Crockett said she was always in awe of Renee’s positive outlook.

‘‘She loved a joke and was always smiling, she had the most beautiful smile.

‘‘She never complained.’’

Tracey Botterill said Renee’s battle to live with cystic fibrosis as the youngest of eight siblings consumed her family.

‘‘Her life, her health and her wellbeing when she was alive was the core total of our existence,’’ she said. ‘‘We did everything around her health, hospital admissions and her life.’’

Renee’s death in July 1993, at 17, from failing lungs — a complication of her disease — left a gaping hole that remains raw almost 21 years later.

In a cruel twist of fate, Renee died the day she was placed on the national transplant registry for a lung transplant.

‘‘It’s something that you never get over but you learn to live with,’’ Mrs Crockett said.

‘‘Even now, coming up to 21 years, it’s still very raw talking about her and looking at photos.’’

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