| News | Nick Riewoldt: ‘Thanks for being my Aussie sister’

Nick Riewoldt: ‘Thanks for being my Aussie sister’

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NICK Riewoldt’s wife has made an emotional tribute to his sister, Madeleine, who died yesterday at the age of 26 from a rare medical condition. Catherine Riewoldt, who was born in Texas, took to Instagram to thank Maddie “for being my Aussie sister, for driving around listening to Tswift and country music with me, for […]

NICK Riewoldt’s wife has made an emotional tribute to his sister, Madeleine, who died yesterday at the age of 26 from a rare medical condition.

Catherine Riewoldt, who was born in Texas, took to Instagram to thank Maddie “for being my Aussie sister, for driving around listening to Tswift and country music with me, for teaching me every possible fact about the AFL and for giving my husband the inspiration to live his life to the fullest every day”.

She also wrote that no words “can sum up the beautiful courageous person that was my sister-in-law”.

“You had more humorous wit, attitude and loyalty than anyone I’ve met. You loved your family with all your being and fought with them by your side every step of the way. You never gave up and your fighting spirit was there until the end.”

Madeleine was surrounded by family when she died at Royal Melbourne Hospital yesterday morning.

Her devoted parents, Joe and Fiona, were by her side, as were her older brothers, Alex and Nick, the St Kilda Football Club captain, who was holding her hand.

Maddie had been diagnosed with aplastic anaemia — a rare disorder in which the body’s bone marrow doesn’t make enough new blood cells — in the first week of the 2010 AFL finals series.

She remained unceasingly strong and positive through five years of treatment, which included chemotherapy and two bone marrow transplants from donors in France, where citizens are required to opt out of being listed on a registry (unlike Australia, where people are required to opt in).

Maddie had undergone two bone marrow transplants, more than 100 blood transfusions and seven months in hospital dealing with the condition.

Nick and Alex were incompatible donors and Maddie — a football and sports nut — was said to be relieved because she could not bear the thought of denying the Saints her star brother’s services.

Madeleine Riewoldt died at the Royal Melbourne Hospital this morning.
Madeleine Riewoldt also love sport.Source: News Limited
For the past seven months, Maddie had largely spent time in the intensive care unit, and on Christmas Day the Riewoldt family were called in and told to prepare for the worst within days if not hours.

Characteristically, Maddie defied that prognosis.

Family believe it was further evidence of her remarkable fighting spirit and tenacity, but also suspect she was determined to get well enough to meet Nick and wife Catherine’s newborn son, James.

Maddie eventually shook off infections and was able to meet and hold her two-month-old nephew a couple of weeks ago.

The Riewoldt family released a statement saying: “We are so proud of Madeleine for fighting as long and hard as she did.

“This spirit is a testament to her strength, she inspired us and so many and will continue to do so. We are grateful for and cherish the 26 years we shared as a family and she will remain in our hearts always.”

What makes a wretched time even more distressing for Nick Riewoldt is that many will want to make it about football, how it will affect his game and how long it will keep him from the field.

That is not the issue. It is about the loss of a beloved sister, and the cruellest of fates for any parent: outliving their child.

St Kilda president Peter Summers understandably said the club would rally around its captain and give him as much time and space to grieve as he required.

“This is obviously an incredibly sad and tough time for Nick and his family and the club will be providing support in any way we can,” he said.

No doubt the Saints will wear black armbands in Saturday’s NAB Challenge match, and the club will be well represented at Maddie’s funeral, expected to be next week.

Condolences poured in yesterday from the broader football community. The Riewoldt family hope Maddie’s passing will encourage people to sign up to the bone marrow registry.

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