An Angel In The Woods: A Tragic Story And The Gift Of Life


By Debbie Moore-Black, RN

We lived in the woods. Five acres of trees. You could barely see the sky. We left the big city for this piece of heaven. And by chance, we met a couple that had a 5-year-old daughter. Our son was four years old. They became best friends. They’d swing on the swing set, play in the sandbox, and splash each other in our little pool.

Kayla was this sweet, tiny girl. Creative, artistic, and smart. Her parents were like us. Pretending to be hippies and so-called “living off the land.” We had playdates, went out to eat together, and we all became fast friends.

Kayla had long blonde hair. She was quiet, but she was a smart beauty.

A week passed, and we had yet to see each other. We called and called, and finally, Kayla’s mother answered the phone. Barely able to speak, she was gasping in between breaths.

Kayla woke up in the middle of the night, screaming. A blood-curdling scream. “My head hurts, my head hurts.” Her parents rushed her to the hospital. They figured an ambulance would never find them out here in the woods, this lost paradise. Kayla’s brain was scanned.

Diagnosis: AVM. Cerebral arteriovenous malformation. I was starting nursing school, and I knew very little about what an AVM was. Arteriovenous malformation. An abnormal connection between the arteries and veins in the brain usually forms before birth. Many times it is undetected. With no symptoms. Until there is a rupture of one of the blood vessels in an AVM.

A stat MRI confirmed her AVM. She was rushed off to surgery. The neurosurgeon worked on her relentlessly. The risk was high. The prognosis was poor. All of her long blonde hair was shaved off. All we could do was hope and pray.

But she remained in the pediatric ICU, on the ventilator. Neurologically, she never got better. Her parents were zombie-like. Their precious angel. No previous symptoms. The light of their lives.

And she was pronounced dead after two days in ICU. There was no brain activity.

Somehow we all drifted apart. We told our son that his little best friend was with baby Jesus. He was four years old and never quite understood what had happened to his best friend.

As tragic as this was, Kayla’s parents donated vital organs to other children. They found that little Kayla’s heart was a compatible match transplant to another girl with a severe heart defect who only had a few months to live.

We went to the funeral. The sadness was palpable. The little mahogany casket with bright daisies on top. Her favorite flowers.

The preacher talked about Kayla. Her love and sweetness. Her very short life. But he also talked about how Kayla lives on. And her spirit is alive.

How do you lose a child but choose the most unselfish act of giving life to another?

Sweet Kayla with her long flowing blond hair. An angel here on earth for just a short time. But her spirit lives on.

Debbie Moore-Black is a nurse.


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