A JOURNEY OF SELF DISCOVERY, RESILIENCE AND LOVE-AN INSEPARABLE COUPLE

Tamaha MacDonald’s thirst for knowledge and adventure has taken him on an incredible journey, a journey filled with exciting experiences, finding true love and discovering a lot about himself in the face of extreme adversity.

Born and growing up in Blenheim, New Zealand, Tamaha and his wife Jennifer met in Australia in 2009. It was love at first sight and six months later they married.

TOTALLY DEVOTED Wedding day bliss

They then moved to Jennifer’s home country of Mexico, living in Mexico City in 2010. Rugby was never far from Tamaha’s thoughts and he got involved coaching at club level men’s and women’s rugby then progressed to be assistant coach of the state representative team. His involvement continued with the Mexico national team helping coach the senior men’s and under 19 teams and did some work coaching the Guatemala national side.

Tamaha - The Rugby Coach

Jennifer suffered a life threatening stroke in 2013. She required emergency surgery where surgeons removed a large piece (the size of her hand) of her skull and three months later replaced it with a titanium plate which required 86 screws to secure it in place. Those screws are still there and the surgery saved her life much against the odds.

During that surgery doctors discovered she had a rare illness of which there is still no cure for and affects her lungs and breathing.

Despite an exhausting fund-raising campaign, Tamaha and his supporters were unable to raise the required amount to fund a double lung transplant and since then Jennifer has been on augmentation treatment via a needle. During the fund-raising the All Blacks got on board to help, among many others and Tamaha said the support was overwhelming and humbling.

SURVIVAL AGAINST THE ODDS A large part of Jennifer’s skull was replaced by a titanium plate fixed in by 86 screws

" The support was overwhelming and humbling."

Basically Jennifer’s condition means her body does not produce a crucial enzyme so it is infused into her via a portal in her chest. Prior to her stroke, Jennifer also suffered two miscarriages, both related to her current condition but which they did not know about at the time.

The couple now live in Merida, Yucatan on the Mexican peninsular just across the water from Florida where the tropical climate helps make it easier for Jennifer to breath. Despite this she is still on oxygen 24/7 and requires 24/7 care which Tamaha does the majority of.

His true love of his wife and the amazing selfless, caring person he is has shone through. He wouldn’t have it any other way and counts himself lucky to able to do it. While it’s challenging in many respects including mentally, physically and financially, he totally embraces his role and has coping strategies when things do start to get on top of him. 

"ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE " - they are just grateful to still be together and do their best to have the best life they can under the circumstances, always with a positive attitude and mostly with a smile on their faces."

HAPPY DAYS
PROUD ALL BLACKS FAN Jennifer with her rugby kit donated by the All Blacks

Both just focus on each day and Tamaha said they are just grateful to still be together and do their best to have the best life they can under the circumstances, always with a positive attitude and mostly with a smile on their faces.

ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE Jennifer and Tamaha in typical happy mode

That courage to embrace and deal with what life has thrown at him started way back as a young teenager out of the Moutere Rugby Club in Blenheim. A club his dad Tangi MacDonald played for and also represented Marlborough.

At just 16 years old and a member of the Marlborough Boys College first 15, the ex Marlborough Red Devils, Counties Manukau, Tasman and Otago representative, decided he wanted to experience education American style in his final senior year. 

Tamaha organised a school to attend, went over on his own and loved the experience which included a stint at American Football. It opened up his eyes as to how big the world was and the opportunities that were out there if you were prepared to have a crack and follow your dreams.

On his return he played NPC rugby back in New Zealand for the teams named above and following that his travelling bug took him to play rugby on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast then on to Plymouth Albion in England for a short stint before settling in Mexico.

TOTALLY DEVOTED Wedding day bliss

My interview with Tamaha is something special, it’s a bloody amazing story. It’s emotional and during it I teared up just in admiration for what he is doing for his wife and what we all hope we would do for our loved ones under similar circumstances. 

At no stage is Tamaha negative about his situation nor is Jennifer despite their real battles. It’s an illustration of how strong the human spirit can be in the most challenging of circumstances.

It just makes me proud to know Tamaha and even prouder to able to tell his and Jennifer’s story.

Interview & Words by John Alexander | Supporting Images sourced by Absolutely Famous.

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