Family mourn loss of ‘quiet’, ‘passionate’ daughter

A TWEED family mourning the sudden loss of their "quiet, passionate" daughter have finally spoken out more than six months after her heartbreaking death.

Tanya and Chris Fairleigh were devastated when 20-year-old Anna died of a condition doctors call Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) late last year.

Anna, a passionate athlete and Gold Coast Titans fan, was studying graphic design and had not had a seizure in more than three years when she died.

Mr Fairleigh said Anna was diagnosed with her epilepsy when she was just two.

"She'd gone through all different types of medication to control it, all the different tests," he said of doctors' efforts to find the cause.

Anna (right) and her sister Amy when they were younger.
Anna (right) and her sister Amy when they were younger.

"There were many sleepless nights spent hoping she could fall asleep and possibly have an episode when she was getting an MRI done, but it never happened.

"We went through all those things and could never pinpoint what was causing it."

Anna was a lover of all things Taylor Swift and Disney.

She graduated from Banora Point High School in 2017.

"She had a year off and (then) finished a degree in graphic design in Byron Bay," Mr Fairleigh said.

"At school she played cricket, netball, basketball, she played soccer on the weekends, we did rowing out at Coolangatta Rowing Club.

Tanya and Chris Fairleigh are still heartbroken over Anna’s death. Photo Scott Powick Newscorp
Tanya and Chris Fairleigh are still heartbroken over Anna’s death. Photo Scott Powick Newscorp

"She was a quiet kid, kept to herself a lot but nothing really worried her too much. She found something she really loved, which was the graphic design course."

Mr Fairleigh said that almost eight months on from her death, the family was still coming to terms with what happened.

"I was having breakfast and Anna's alarm kept going off because she had to go to Byron that day," he said.

"I thought 'she'll get up soon'. It wasn't until my wife opened her door and yelled out that we knew something had happened.

"We tried CPR but it was too late."

The family has donated $2000 to Epilepsy Queensland in Anna's memory, from a GoFundMe campaign initially started to support them after her death.

Anna was a passionate athlete. Photo: Supplied
Anna was a passionate athlete. Photo: Supplied

It was accepted by Epilepsy Queensland ambassadors and mother and son Anna and Jack Dalton, who also met with Gold Coast Titans wellbeing program manager Peter Smith.

The Titans had planned fundraising and awareness activities during the first home game in March, but COVID-19 restrictions forced a cancellation of that plan.

Epilepsy Queensland CEO Helen Whitehead said the donation would go towards funding the Epilepsy Helpline and raising awareness of the condition.

"Epilepsy Queensland is sincerely grateful to the Fairleigh family for helping others in spite of the tragic loss of their beloved Anna," she said.

"As a society we find it difficult to discuss sensitive topics such as a loved one suddenly passing away.

Anna and her dad Chris. Photo: Supplied
Anna and her dad Chris. Photo: Supplied

"For those people living with epilepsy, SUDEP does not discriminate, so people need to be aware and take precautions to reduce the risk.

"Funds raised will assist us to raise awareness of epilepsy and SUDEP on the Gold Coast as well as help fund our (helpline)."

For more information about SUDEP as well as information about the helpline and how to donate, visit https://www.epilepsyqueensland.com.au/about-epilepsy-epilepsy-queensland/epilepsy/sudep-risk-factors

Anna and Amy at a Titans game in 2010.
Anna and Amy at a Titans game in 2010.
Anna was a lover of the Gold Coast Titans. Photo: Supplied
Anna was a lover of the Gold Coast Titans. Photo: Supplied


'Supercells possible': Severe storm warning issued

Premium Content 'Supercells possible': Severe storm warning issued

Schoolies warned as large hail, destructive winds possible for SEQ

EDITORIAL: ADF reports expose enemy on home soil

Premium Content EDITORIAL: ADF reports expose enemy on home soil

Why it’s never been more important to support our vets

New bar under fire as owners owe ‘thousands’ to old staff

Premium Content New bar under fire as owners owe ‘thousands’ to old staff

A bar has come under the microscope of the Fair Work Ombudsman