Monday, September 28, 2009
R.I.P. Kristina Venable, 1988 - 2009
I woke up this morning to receive the sad news that my friend's daughter, Kristina Venable, passed away hours ago after a long battle with Cystic Fibrosis. She was 21.
I can't begin to tell you how sad I am to hear this news although Kristina had been living on borrowed time for many years.
CF is an inherited disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and patients suffer severe pain all over their bodies. People diagnosed with the disease aren't known to live past 37, but many die well before that.
Since I am a writer, I wanted to put my thoughts down here and share them with you.
I met Kristina through her Mama, Melanie, when I took over the night cops beat at the Telegraph in 2002. It was about that time that then Police Chief Rodney Monroe put Melanie in charge of public relations for the police department. Melanie cut her teeth on that job as I learned the ropes of the cops beat and we had a helluva good time meeting up at one crime scene to another at night.
It wasn't too long before I discovered Melanie had two daughters, Kristina and Katherine. Kristina, the oldest, was diagnosed with CF as a young girl, but she never let that diagnosis stop her from living life. She had been a competitive swimmer years earlier and went through high school as a cheerleader.
In fact, if you looked at Kristina back in those days you would never have known she was sick. A beautiful girl all of her life, Kristina never let her sickness keep her from smiling.
I remember being in her Mama's office one day and watching her come in with some fast food... she was trying to eat enough for two people, but never gained an ounce (another fact about CF).
Kristina was battling CF hard and had already lost of few friends to the disease. By the time I left Macon, she was in the hospital more often and those visits were becoming actual stays.
The last time I saw Kristina was in June 2007 when I brought Savannah home to Georgia for the first time. We stopped by Melanie's office at the Macon Police Department and Kristina came over from her job to see my little girl.
By that time, I could see the disease had taken it's toll on Kristina, but she was still fighting.
In late 2007, Kristina and her family were told that she would not be eligible for the double lung transplant she needed to save her life as the doctors didn't think she would survive the difficult surgery. They gave her just a year to live and she would have to rotate home stays and hospital visits every two weeks.
Well, once again, Kristina beat those odds and I know she crammed as much life as she could into that time.
Last month, Kristina celebrated her 21st birthday and I'm sure it was a milestone she fought very hard to reach. I, along with so many of her friends, sent birthday wishes on Facebook. Just two weeks ago, they all went to the beach to enjoy the last bit of sun and some time together, I hope they were able to get plenty of it as that was the weekend Georgia was hit by a lot of rain.
This morning Julius woke me up and I logged onto my computer to find a message telling me that Kristina passed away. When I logged on to Facebook, Melanie had already posted the sad news on her page as well as Kristina's.
I always knew this day would come, but I think since I've had children of my own it has hit me even harder than it would have before.
I know there will be many people saddened by this news as Kristina touched a lot of people in the 21 years she lived. I'm sure there are even a few people who will regret never getting to know the young woman who could still light up any room with her smile even when smiling was probably the last thing she wanted to do.
Melanie and I met up at many crime scenes where young life was snuffed away over trivial things. If Melanie was bitter over the fact that those young people sometimes threw their lives away while Kristina fought so hard for every day of her own she never showed it to me.
I believe Melanie has just been thankful for every day they've had together.
God Speed Kristina. The world today is truly a little dimmer without you in it.