Lily Thai made a small promise to her friend Annaliese Holland before using medically assisted dying laws to end life
- Lily Thai, 23, terminally ill, chose to end her life
- Her friend Annaliese Holland made her a promise
As Lily Thai counted down the days until she ended her life through medically assisted dying, her friend Annaliese Holland promised they would always stay by each other’s sides.
The young women had several things in common: both were 23 years old, from South Australia and battling a terminal illness, autoimmune autonomic gangliopathy (AAG).
Lily was one of the youngest Australians to legally commit suicide when she died on June 21 under South Australia’s voluntary assisted dying laws which were introduced in January.
Today, three months after her death and days before surgery that could take her life, Annaliese remained determined to keep her wish.
On Sunday she left hospice care to take part in Adelaide’s City to Bay fun run to honor her friend’s legacy.
“I promised her the first day I met her and I told her I promise to hold your hand through all of this, and I will be there with you through all of this,” she told 7News .
“I promised Lily that I would continue to raise awareness, to show everyone what we have been through and everything that we have experienced.
Lily Thai (pictured) ended her life on June 21 under South Australia’s voluntary assisted dying laws.
Lily Thai (right) is pictured with her friend Annaliese Holland while in palliative care
“I was so sick this morning that I didn’t think I’d get here. I needed pain relief, I was vomiting. But I did it – I got here. And I’m so glad I did.
Lily and Annaliese connected during the last months of her life and bonded over their shared condition – which causes a person’s immune system to attack their own body, slowing the shutdown of vital organs.
The debilitating illness left Lily in constant pain and unable to walk, drink or eat without being sick.
Annaliese, who has battled the disease for nine years, is currently living in palliative care and will undergo spinal cord surgery next week from which she may never wake up.
Although she was dealing with her own illness, she was determined to honor her friend and had surgery postponed until Friday so she could take part in the fun run to raise money for the Hospital Research Foundation.
Carrying a banner for the foundation on her back, Annalize was greeted by cheers from the crowd as she crossed the finish line.
Annaliese is pictured speaking to reporters after crossing the finish line at Adelaide’s City to Bay fun run on Sunday.
Annaliese has been battling AGA since the age of 11 and will undergo life-threatening spinal cord surgery in the coming days.
What is autoimmune autonomic ganglionopathy?
Autoimmune autonomic ganglionopathy (AAG) is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your autonomic nervous system.
The autonomic nervous system is part of your peripheral nervous system. It controls specific involuntary bodily processes, such as your breathing, blood pressure, or heart rate.
AAG is a type of autonomic neuropathy or dysautonomia. Autonomic neuropathies and dysautonomias are disorders of your autonomic nervous system.
Source: The Cleveland Clinic
Annaliese said she was using the walk to raise awareness of benefits such as palliative care and change misconceptions about terminal illnesses.
It was around this time last year that Lily heard about Annaliese walking from City to Bay in 2022 and told her she had first inspired her to leave hospice to a day.
The pair met and instantly formed a beautiful bond, with Lily asking Annaliese to be one of six people at her bedside when she died.
Annaliese was among Lily’s loved ones who spoke at her funeral, where the 23-year-old reiterated her promise to continue raising awareness of their illness in Lily’s honor.
Annaliese started feeling ill at age 11, leading to years of misdiagnoses as she suffered chronic pain as her internal organs began to fail. Until then, she was a healthy and fit child.
But over the past eight years, as she battled AAAG, she struggled with unrelenting health issues, including sepsis, intestinal failure, Addison’s disease and osteoporosis.
Annaliese said getting sick made her realize how harsh people can be on each other and how being happy and positive has the power to change someone’s world.
She said she was grateful to everyone who helped her along her journey over the past 12 years and wanted people to remember her in the happy times.
How do assisted dying laws work in South Australia?
Voluntary assisted dying became legal for eligible South Australians on 31 January 2023, under the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2021.
The process allows patients to voluntarily self-administer, or have a doctor administer, a drug that will cause their death.
To be eligible under the laws, a patient must be diagnosed with an incurable, advanced disease, illness or medical condition that will result in death within six months, or within 12 months if it is a neurodegenerative disease.
They must also be aged 18, be an Australian citizen or resident, live in South Australia or have lived in the state for at least 12 months at the time of application and be able to make decisions independently and without any coercion.