By Margie Wuebker
Loren Seffernick packed a lot of living into 14 years, indelibly touching family and friends in the process.
The girl, who dreamed of becoming a dermatologist or a dentist, died Monday afternoon at Children's Medical Center in Dayton. Just 12 hours earlier, her parents Bryan and Carol Seffernick learned what appeared to be a bout of intestinal flu was actually leukemia.
"Looking back, there were signs we never identified as symptoms," Carol Seffernick says in a voice laced with emotion Tuesday afternoon. "Loren's main complaint was being tired."
The Celina High School freshman frequently took an hour nap before rushing off to participate at soccer games, track meets and band events. She liked to pull on roller blades for a 6-mile jaunt to her grandparents' home. Homework awaited at the end of each school day as she worked to maintain a 4.0 average with the goal of someday attending Duke University.
The most telling sign came following her death as family members prepared to meet with funeral directors. The grieving mother called the high school to inquire whether new student pictures had arrived. The voice on the other end of the line explained students had received them last week. "I picked up Loren's book bag and found the envelope," she says. "I could not believe the difference in skin tones between this year's picture and her eighth-grade one. Oh my God, why didn't we notice the change. It all came about so slowly."
The girl, who wanted to play all kinds of musical instruments but reluctantly settled on just the saxophone, piano and violin, headed to school Thursday complaining of a stomach ache. She could have stayed home, but immediately ruled out the option. The discomfort increased during morning classes and she called her grandmother for a ride home at noon.
"Loren told us other students had been absent with the flu and we had no reason to suspect the vomiting and diarrhea were associated with anything else," Carol Seffernick says. "She hated missing the Friday night band performance and the Saturday music competition."
Her condition worsened early Monday morning as stomach discomfort turned to pain and natural pinkness faded from her cheeks. The Seffernicks took her to Joint Township District Memorial Hospital in St. Marys.
"The doctor ordered blood tests, checked the results and repeated the tests to make sure there had been no error," Carol Seffernick says. "He recommended Loren be taken to Dayton by CareFlight. Fog had developed during the night so she had to go by ambulance."
The trip to Dayton never seemed so long as the parents tried to fathom the two suspected causes of their daughter's illness -- a full-body infection or leukemia. Specialists soon determined she had both.
Doctors and nurses worked feverishly trying to stabilize her blood pressure and deal with the possibility of organ shutdown. She asked the question -- "Am I going to die?" -- just once after seeing tears on the cheeks of her mom and dad.
Her condition stabilized to permit transfer from the emergency department to a patient room upstairs. She drifted off to sleep as more problems developed. Her blood pressure suddenly plummeted. The Seffernicks had to leave the room as staff members hurriedly pushed life-sustaining equipment along the corridor leading to the room.
"We asked God to spare our only daughter," Carol Seffernick says. "We needed her and so did her two younger brothers. I guess God needed our little girl even more."
Moving as if in a trance, the parents followed a nurse to her bedside. Mom held one hand and Dad the other. They spoke words of love as the heart that beat with such love for family and friends slowed and then stopped. The clock marked 2:15 p.m. as the end of her struggle.
"This is any parent's worst nightmare," Carol Seffernick says with a sigh. "Her brothers (12-year-old Michael and 9-year-old Peter) are helping make the decisions we now face."
Only days ago plans for the future included a first date for the homecoming dance. Mother and daughter had gone shopping for the "perfect" dress and the thought of getting a corsage left the teen starry-eyed. Now she will wear the floral-appliqued burgundy dress forever.
"Loren lived life in fast forward mode," her mother says. "She went full bore into everything as if she knew her time here was limited."
The family has asked that memorial contributions be made to the American Cancer Society in the girl's name. A veteran of two Relay for Life events, Loren Seffernick never imagined cancer would come like a thief in the night. Like the donations she raised through walking, the money will be used to support research into finding a cure to spare others.