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August 29, 2014 06:03 PM

Family, Friends Remember Dr. Tom Braithwaite

Sioux Falls, SD

From his bone marrow transplant to the finish line of a half marathon, we all cheered for Dr. Tom Braithwaite.  After more than a decade of health problems, the well-known physician died on Thursday.

He spent his last moments in hospice care, surrounded by family.  Tom battled Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma on and off since 2003, which led to his need for a bone marrow transplant.  In January, doctors diagnosed him with leukemia.  Though he was in remission, it came back about two weeks ago. 

KELOLAND News followed him for the last two years, and in that time, we learned he was not one to feel sorry for himself.  At the race he ran a year ago, Tom counted every mile before the finish line as a victory.

"Today those 13 were just the most extraordinary," Tom said back in September 2013.

That is how he chose to see the world -- with faith, gratitude and hope.

"Tom has not been just my brother, but he's been my best friend," Tim Braithwaite said.

Tim, who worked alongside of his brother at Sanford Health, said Tom touched lives beyond those of his friends and family.  The doctor had a knack for showing compassion toward the men and women he cared for.

"It's not uncommon when physicians take care of patients when there's nothing else to be done that the patient might feel like they're moving on.  That wasn't Tom.  Tom was with them until the very end," Tim said.

Though he never wanted any credit, Tom used his journey to shine a spotlight on bone marrow transplants and the constant need for donors to register.  Through several donor drives in the area, he undoubtedly inspired others to become donors.  Tim said a friend, one of many, has said he decided to become a donor to honor Tom.

"He was just notified yesterday.  Just yesterday he is a potential match for a 32-year-old looking for a bone marrow transplant.  We don't know if he'll be a match or not.  But has he made a difference?  Of course, he has," Tim said.

Longtime friend and President of Augustana College Rob Oliver said several Augustana students have registered to become donors.

"You know, he was always that role model of faith and hope that things were going to turn out ok," Oliver said.  "We believed that right with him.  Right with him.  Then it became clear here, just within the last couple of weeks." 

Tom's faith in God was clear as Oliver said goodbye just a few hours before Tom died. 

"I just feel blessed that I was able to see him and talk to him and hold his hand and tell him how much he meant to all of us and how much of a good friend he was," Oliver said.

Though Tom's finish line came a little sooner than his loved ones would have liked, they do not want anyone to dwell on his death.  They want you to focus on the fact Tom ran a hell of a race in the miles he had.

"I think we can take even the darkest moments of our lives, the times that are most challenging, the times that really cause us to face our deepest fears of death, fears of loss of connection and what you might miss out and you can use that as a way of achieving good.  At least that's our hope and prayer,"  Tom said in 2012.

To find out how to become a bone marrow donor, just visit Be The Match's website.

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