Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hope Noelle Chance: What Happened

This post is about my sister, Hope, who semi-unexpectedly passed away in her sleep during the morning of April 29, 2013. I have three younger sisters. Of those three, Hope was the oldest, although she was five years younger than me. Hope was born six weeks early on November 17, 1990. Prayers were answered and she fought through, even though the odds were against her since she was also born with muscular dystrophy.

According to my mom, Hope was an easy baby. She would pat my mom on the back while my mom held her. She never went through her terrible twos. When she was three years old, she got a viral skin infection that produced these little nodules or sores. To remove them, the doctors had to take tweezers and basically pull these pieces of skin off. It was painful, but my mom told Hope she would get a treat afterwards. Once it was over, Hope got her treat and was put in her carseat. She held the treat, but didn't open it. My mom asked if she wanted help opening it. Hope said yes, but that she wanted to wait until she got home to share with her sisters. "That's just how she was," my mom said later.

I could go on and on with stories to illustrate just how easy-going she was. How quick to befriend others, how slow to judge. But that could fill a novel.

A few months ago, Hope was in a minor car accident. She was driving and needed to make a U-turn. Unfortunately, she forgot to look behind her and was hit by a car that was coming up behind her. She suffered some minor bumps and scrapes, including a broken nose. While having her nose evaluated, it was discovered that she had a deviated septum. A surgery was scheduled and performed. Several days afterward, Hope began having pain (either in her head or her nose, I can't remember exactly which). At any rate, she was taken in to the hospital and given an MRI. In that MRI, the doctors found something else entirely: two brain aneurysms located on her brain stem.

After that, we realized what a blessing it was that Hope had gotten in the car accident and that she had to get nose surgery. Without those sequence of events, we would never have found out about her aneurysms.

The location of the aneurysms was an extremely delicate area. Usually, aneurysms can be fixed relatively easily because they're sitting along a straight blood vessel. The problem with Hope's aneurysms was that they were both side by side on the part where the blood vessel curved up and then back down, right at the brain stem. There are very few neurosurgeons in the world who are able to perform the procedure needed to fix this. However, it just so happened that the man who pioneered that exact procedure and his protege would be in town for awhile. They studied Hope's situation and were confident they could perform the surgery. It would be risky. The procedure was very new, but they could do it.

And so they did. On March 8, 2013, Hope went into the hospital for brain surgery. We were worried, but also felt that it would be successful.

There was a little scare during the surgery, when one of the blood vessels that led to Hope's brain lost blood flow for about an hour. The doctors were able to restore flow, but it wasn't up to its original capacity. The doctors said there was nothing they could do about restoring better blood flow, but that she would be okay.

The rest of the surgery went well, and Hope came out just fine. We were so grateful and thought the worst was behind us.

Hope continued to have pain, although at first we just though it was part of normal recovery. The first time she got a headache, my parents rushed her to the emergency room, thinking the maybe it was a blood clot/possible brain stroke. It turned out to be nothing serious, they said, though she kept getting headaches.

Hope would also complain of back pain. This was normal for her, though. She had struggled with back pain for a year or two previously, but it seemed it was getting worse.

A few weeks ago, she was at the movies with her boyfriend and had to leave early because of "back and side pains". She called my parents saying it was hard for her to breathe. Again, she was taken to the emergency room. Even with severe pain, the doctors found nothing wrong. She was sent home.

Last Thursday, April 25, Hope seemed fine. I asked her to babysit my kids while I went to photograph a wedding. She said she would, but she was sorry because she was tired and in pain, so she probably wouldn't be able to play with and entertain the kids very well. "Don't worry about that, Hope," I told her. "Just plop them in front of the TV for awhile. They'll be fine.

During a two hour break that day, I came home to find Hope and my daughter Elizabeth cuddled up together watching Elizabeth's favorite (my least favorite) show, Yo Gabba Gabba. I thought it was so sweet, watching them cuddled up together. I remember thinking, 'I should take a picture of this.' But I didn't. I was too tired from the first part of the wedding, and just wanted to lay there on the couch. I still kept thinking that I should take a picture of them, but kept pushing the thought aside. 'There will be another time. Next time they cuddle together, then I'll take a picture' was my thought.

I got home late that night and hadn't had time to get cash out to pay my sister. I told her I'd bring it to her, no later than Sunday night.

Sunday night came and went and I still hadn't brought her money over. On the following Monday morning (yesterday), I had a missed call from my parents' house, where Hope and my other sisters live. No one left a message and I figured it was Hope calling me to find out where her money was. I didn't call them back. Instead, I just jumped in my car, ran to the ATM, pulled out some money, and started driving over. That's when I got a call from my husband, who was at work.

"Your dad just called me. He wants us both to come over. He sounded pretty shaken up, but didn't say what was going on," Mike told me.

Instantly, I felt that something was wrong. I was less than five minutes away from my parents'. I told Mike I needed to get off the phone right away. I started to brace myself for something bad.

When I pulled around the corner to my parents' house, I saw a group of neighbors out on the front lawn. There were three police cars and an ambulance. Fear and sickness hit me. There was no room to pull into my parents' driveway, so I pulled into the neighbors'. I started getting my kids out of the car, watching the neighbors and everyone else the whole time. They were coming over to me. The first lady who came to me put her arms around me and said, "I'm so sorry".

"What's going on?" I asked. I saw a paramedic nearby. "Is there something going on with one of my sisters?"

"Who are you?" he asked.

"I'm the daughter of the people who live in this house," I said, pointing to my parents'.

He looked at the house, then at me, with an unsure look on his face. He told me to stay here. He'll be right back.

More neighbors came up to me. One said he was so sorry about my sister. The other neighbor said, "she doesn't know..." and they all looked at each other.

I don't remember who said it, but I heard someone say: "Your sister passed away last night".


We don't know exactly what happened, but assume it was related to the brain aneurysms. Apparently Hope had been in extreme pain the day before, just lying around looking gray and occasionally throwing up.

Because of all that had happened previously, what happened isn't completely surprising. It was a shock to all of us nonetheless. My parents are, of course, taking it the hardest. That's the worst part about it, watching your parents go through the loss of a child. There's nothing you can do to make it better for them.

Funeral services are tentatively scheduled for Monday, May 6, 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah. We would like anyone to attend who would like.

Things like this are unexpected. No one expects or is prepared for their child to die. My parents have selflessly served all four of their children unceasingly. My dad works hard, but I know it's hard for him having three (now two) almost grown daughters who will most likely be dependent on him for the rest of their lives. My dad was let go from his job awhile ago and when my mom wondered aloud, "How are we going to pay for a funeral?", I felt like I needed to do something. So, if you would like to donate to my sister's memorial service, you may do so here. I would never, ever be able to express how much it would mean to my family. I just want my parents to have the means to provide a funeral for their daughter. They would never ask something like this, which is why I'm doing it. 100% of all proceeds will go directly to them. Thank you so much.

Click here to donate to Hope's fund.

Hope's Facebook here.