The Day My Daughter Died

Simple Steps Through Grief: The Day My Daughter Died

Original Post Date: January 30, 2019

August 17, 2015: Facebook Posts

PLEASE pray for Joanna, my 15 year old, beautiful daughter. We found her unconscious this morning on the treadmill. We did CPR, and then paramedics took her to the local ER where they worked on her for 1.5+ hours trying to get a heartbeat. With barely a heartbeat, they took her to the Cath Lab and checked her heart and arteries. All clear.

She is now in a coma, cooled to preserve any brain function that remains. She is being transferred via helicopter to UCLA where they will try to determine the problem and solution. Right now things like “heart transplant” and possible viral cause are what’s on the table, but we don’t know. Pray for my other four children. Pray. We are surrounded by family and church family. Heading to UCLA shortly.

She has arrived at UCLA. Team of doctors in pediatric ICU working on her. They are putting her on a heart-lung machine to give both a break as they evaluate both. No answers yet.

Today as I waited in waiting rooms, I thought about how irritated I was at Joanna yesterday when I had instructed her to get some head shots for the [printed] ballet program for Sleeping Beauty. She, Yazmine, and Evelyn were goofing off more than getting anything professional done. Today I am so thankful for these pictures:

Joanna Three Images
My Joanna. If I seem incomplete to you, it’s because this piece of me is missing.

August 18, 2015: Facebook Posts

Cath Lab procedure was successful. They found no problems with the pressures in her heart, so no intervention was needed. They took a biopsy of the heart tissue in hopes to confirm the viral cardiomyopathy (body mistaking heart for virus). They also discovered that one of her lungs had collapsed during all the craziness yesterday, so they have fixed that. Other than that, no calls from the hospital in the middle of the night, so that’s good news.

Tim and I head back to the hospital in a bit. Today will be another big/long day of tests and hopes. Thank you for all your prayers. We continue to be overwhelmed by your support.

Neuro signs have diminished. They are currently fixing a bleed in the ECMO entry site. Then they will send her for a Cat Scan. Results will give us an idea if she has any brain activity. Doctors are not hopeful. Tim and I need prayer. We may be hearing hard things today.

Mid-day Update: EEG is still showing no brain activity. CAT scan shows minimal swelling, which is surprising. Glimmer of hope in that. Still no primal reactions- like gag or flinch. Viral heart issue has been ruled out. They have found that the muscle of her heart is thickened, giving evidence that her heart failed due to whatever it is called when perfectly healthy athletes’ hearts fail. They are examining the tissue to confirm. We continue to wait for the swelling to peak tonight, and then hope and pray for a miracle.

Evening update: Brain is going to be at peak of swelling in about 12 hours, so we don’t expect any neurological improvement soon. CAT scan will be done in the morning. Today they were going to put a pressure monitor in her skull, but opted not to because of blood issues — clotting issues because of blood thinners because of the ECMO (heart/lung machine). Her EEG remains the same.

Today she had a neuro exam. Pupils are still responsive, and when they yelled at her, she did jerk her head twice. Neither of those things are any conclusive evidence of anything, but they COULD be hopeful — or not — could be a random neurological response to stimuli. Tim read Lord of the Rings to her today, and she did move her head a couple more times. 

We are still waiting on confirmation of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). (This is a disease in which the heart muscle (myocardium) becomes abnormally thick, making it harder for the heart to pump blood. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, while usually not fatal in most people, is the most common cause of heart-related sudden death in people under 30. It’s the most common cause of sudden death in athletes. HCM often goes undetected.) IF Joanna recovers brain function, she will be facing heart surgery.

The drainage from the collapsed lung is doing well, all other organs are functioning well. She is swollen from fluids and drugs. They have put gauze on her eyes to protect them — she wasn’t shutting her eyes all the way and they were drying out.

Joanna in PICU
Joanna in PICU

Tomorrow our younger four kids will be visiting. Please pray for that. It’s going to be a very painful time for everyone.

One of Joanna’s dear friends came and sat by her bedside most of the afternoon and agreed that it was one of the hardest things she’s ever done — but she didn’t want to be anywhere else. We are reading cards/letters to her and putting them on the wall in her room.

August 19, 2015: Facebook Posts

Prayer request — health for me and Tim. Neither of us is able to sleep or eat well. A diet plan of no sleep and adrenaline pumping through our systems is not a diet plan we’d like to stay on. Please pray for mercy on our bodies as we are exhausted, but cannot seem to rest.

Final Update: Today was full of tests. It was determined beyond a shadow of a doubt that Joanna had no brain activity at all. Electricity sent through her body was not reaching her brain. Even the most basic, primal instincts — like coughing, gagging, or flinching are not present. She is definitively brain dead, and her heart is barely functioning as well. Tomorrow, sometime, we will be removing her life support.

We have a lot of decisions to make in the next couple of days, so we would covet your prayers as we try to figure everything out. Please pray for our four children who are mourning — as well as all of our friends and family. We will let you know as soon as we have a day and time set for her service.

We love you all and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for every moment you spent praying and thinking about Joanna and us.

To GOD be the glory.

August 20, 2015: Facebook Posts

At 6:26pm today, Joanna’s body entered into its rest.

I finally located Joanna’s prayer journal. I opened the first page and on the inside of the front cover I found the following (see picture):

Journal Front Cover
Inside Cover of Joanna’s Journal

The first page starts like this:

“Doubting salvation can be caused by thinking you have a part in your salvation. Because if you did have a part in saving yourself and you messed up, then you would have cause to fear. But that’s not the case. Jesus paid it all and all to him I owe… Jesus paid it ALL!!!”

I’m so glad she was a journaler. What joy I will have to be able to go back and read her thoughts and be encouraged by her words. I will miss my Joanna-banana so much. She was not just my daughter, she was my dear friend and sister-in-Christ. I will be counting the days until I see her again.

Journal Entry from Death Day
Joanna’s journal entry, completed just a few minutes before she got on the treadmill and collapsed.
Santa Clarita Ballet Program Dedication
Excerpt from Santa Clarita Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty program, dedicating the performance to Joanna

Read the next post on grief: Simple Steps Through Grief: How to Answer “I can’t imagine!”

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