The 15-year-old has long wanted to complete the swim, but his goal was put on hold when he succumbed to a mysterious illness in early 2012.
After losing feeling in one of his legs one afternoon at football training, Tristan was hit by excruciating pain later that night and admitted to PMH, where he stayed for two weeks. Tristan’s mother Tanya Tan said many tests were done but doctors were unsure what caused the condition and how to cure it; all they could do was manage the pain.
‘It was really scary,’ she said.
‘Tristan was asking ‘what’s going to happen to me? Am I going to die?’ and we couldn’t answer him.’
Tristan was in and out of hospital as the pain would lessen and then return unbearably. He lost feeling in many areas of his body, including his lower left leg and partial areas inside his mouth, face, forearms and back. A former member of Churchlands Senior High School’s specialist swimming program, Tristan didn’t let his condition keep him out of the pool.
‘I always thought I would be swimming again but had to get back into the pool slowly,’ Tristan said.
‘Last year there were a lot of times that I found it unbearable being in constant pain, but swimming makes me happier.’
Tristan recently participated in the Rottnest Channel Swim and in August will attempt the Channel as part of a team of five.
He is physically fit but Mrs Tan said there was always the possibility that the pain would flare up again.
‘It’s the most awful thing to watch him in pain, but swimming has helped him improve mentally and physically,’ she said.
Though doctors haven’t been able to provide Tristan and his parents with a prognosis or cure, Mrs Tan said the pain was currently ‘the best it’s ever been’ and Tristan had been away from hospital for the longest time since falling ill.
‘We’re very, very hopeful he will continue to improve and one day he will be pain-free,’ she said.