Today was a cool, brisk November day, and I decided to go visit Jessies’ Garden. I climbed from my car and walked the short distance to the spot where our journey ended two and a half years ago. We brought her here to her final resting-place while the bagpipes she loved played Amazing Grace. I look at her picture on her marker – the shining dark hair – the dark eyes that could look at you as if she were looking clear to your soul.
Her name was Jessica, but she was also Jess, Jessyroo, Miss Jess just to name a few. It all depended on who was addressing her, to me – she was Jessie. She was more than beautiful – she was striking – with a smile that could turn the grayest sky blue. Jessie never thought she was beautiful. She worried as most young girls do when her face – mainly her cheeks – would break out. She was on the color guard at her high school and later at Appalachian State University. She wanted to look her best and she and her mother tried everything but nothing seemed to help. In 2000, she had a physical and her gynecologist recommended she try an oral contraceptive – explaining that they had the side effect of clearing your complexion. Due to her busy college schedule, Jessie would sometimes forget to take her pills so she was told about the patch you applied only once a week and tried it.
Jessie became ill in the early months of 2003. Her body – strong and athletic – began to weaken. She suffered extreme bouts of nausea and vomiting. Her stomach began to swell. Through this horrible ordeal, at time being so sick she could hardly hold her head up, her goal was to complete her junior year at college. She managed to do so returning home on a Tuesday only to spend a miserable night of pain. The following day she was admitted to a local hospital and the following Friday airlifted to a university hospital. (Diagnoses: Hepatic, portal, mesenteric and partial inferior vena cava thromboses.)
My daughter Allison and I drove to visit Jessica on May 21, 2003 not knowing what to expect, but praying we would find her doing better. What we did not know was that the worst of Jessies’ fight was already over. Her Mother, Kathy, told us about the screen they placed to keep the blood clots from moving to her lung, the port a cath they placed in her side, the pain she suffered as the clots moved through her body. She had been placed in a coma to keep her from suffering what was explained as excruciating pain if she were allowed to awaken.
The reason behind this nightmare – the culprit that had attached itself to her – was a genetic blood disorder (Heterozygous factor V Leiden) that combined with oral contraceptives caused her blood to clot.
This beautiful young lady, this child that I watched grow up – who gave so much – who was loved by so many, was allowed to believe that because she had no medical problems, that she did not smoke, that she appeared healthy and had no history of blood clots, would have no problems taking oral contraceptives.
I look at her picture on her marker now and I think how ironic and tragic it is that she had a beautiful complexion – when she died. As I stand and look at her marker, at her grave that we call Jessies’ Garden because it is easier for us to say, as I think of her Mother who buried her only child – the joy and sunshine of her life – I realize that I was wrong. This is not where our journey ended – this is where our journey begins.
Those of us who loved Jessie, who still love her and always will – have made a vow to her to keep this from happening to someone else’s child. This is Jessica’s story – and this is only the beginning!!!
Posted November 2, 2008