Heather with Kristy

My 23-year-old daughter, Heather Schoonover, passed away on February 5, 2015. She had epilepsy since she was 11 years old. She had her seizures pretty well controlled through her school years, but when she went to college, her seizures became more and more of a problem. Heather’s seizures were brought on by lack of sleep, stress, and not taking her medication. She knew she needed to take control of the problem, but she was too proud to ask for help. 

When Heather started having more seizures at one place of employment, including two brought on by stress at work, her hours were cut back so much that she had to find another job. She ended up working at a Chinese department in one of the local grocery stores. The stress of the job, lack of hours, lack of finances, and a roommate who caused stress did not help her situation. Because of her lack of work hours, Heather didn't have the finances to go to the neurologist like she needed to and she missed her last neurology appointment. This meant that she had no medication. It was even tough to persuade her to get medical assistance from her doctor.

Heather experienced SUDEP (sudden unexpected death in epilepsy). She was at a friend's house and had a seizure. Her heart and breathing stopped. The paramedics got her heart started and her airway open, and she was sent to Covenant Hospital, which doesn’t have a neurology department, in Waterloo, Iowa. We then had her airlifted to University Hospital in Iowa City. When she got there, she had an EEG. The doctor relayed to us that there was very little brain functioning at that point.

We then had her taken to the medical ICU and let God take her when he was ready. Heather passed away at 12:35 a.m. on Thursday, February 5, 2015. We kept the ventilator on and medications flowing for her blood pressure because we wanted to be able to donate life for someone else. Heather was able to donate her eyes, her tissues, and her heart valves. What a blessing she is to those people who received parts of her. 

Heather gave freely in life and she gave freely in death. The wedding gown she never got to wear was donated to St. Luke’s Angel Gown program. Her clothes were taken to a thrift shop that sends proceeds to an orphanage in Sierra Leone, Africa. Her baby clothes and toys went to her best friend's daughter and her cousin's daughters. Heather was a blessing to many.

I pray that all who read this will let their teens and young adults know that going to their appointments, taking their medications, getting the right amount of sleep, and keeping their stress levels under control are very important. As a mother of a child who experienced SUDEP, I would not wish this one anyone else.

Thank you for letting me share my story.

Kristy Flack
Marion, Iowa

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Kristy Flack
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