Surrounded by family and friends at her bedside at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, Amanda Messinger, 22, of Gig Harbor, died on New Year’s Day from complications due to cystic fibrosis.
“Amanda passed on a day we will never forget,” her father, Mitch, said Friday in reference to the first day of 2013.
Messinger’s health began to deteriorate on Dec. 1 when she started coughing up blood. During an appointment at the UW Medical Center, she coughed up even more blood and it was determined it was best to hospitalize her with the intention of performing a lung transplant if possible.
“She had her ups and downs,” her dad said, his voice occasionally cracking with emotion. “On Christmas Day, we took a mini Christmas tree there with decorations and set it in the waiting room. We had a great, great Christmas. It was probably the best Christmas for me. Amanda had a great Christmas.”
Individuals — family, Messinger’s boyfriend and others — rotated spending a night or two each at the hospital with Messinger.
“So, she was never alone,” Mitch said. “We were just playing a waiting game waiting for a donor.”
In October, Messinger was rushed to the UW Medical Center for a lung transplant that was not to be because the donor lungs turned out not to be healthy enough to use.
If the lungs do not operate properly — as is the case with cystic fibrosis — not enough carbon dioxide is exhaled, and it builds up in the blood.
That was the case with Messinger, who got sicker and weaker as time went by.
“On New Year’s Day morning, doctors told us she was too sick for a lung transplant,” Mitch said. “We had lots of family and friends there. Amanda was shot up with morphine, the (oxygen) mask was taken off, and a minute later she took her last breath and left. It was devastating for everybody.”
A strong faith in God and an afterlife helps Mitch cope with the loss of a second daughter to the inherited chronic disease that causes the body to produce an unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening infections.
Messinger’s older sister, Jessica, passed away from cystic fibrosis in September 2005, a little more than two months after her 16th birthday.
“Well, this being my second go at it, it’s still hard,” Mitch said, “but I’m dealing with it.”
He takes some comfort in the fact that his daughter was prepared to die.
“I look at it in a divine way,” he said. “Three days before, she told me it was time to go, and she didn’t want to fight anymore.”
Seeing how much his daughter was loved and what a strong person she was also serves as a coping mechanism.
Reading through her letters and journals on her computer made him proud, Mitch said.
“I’m blown away by it all,” he said. “Through the pain, sorrow, heartache and tears, there’s love among it all. I’ve always instilled faith in God in Amanda. It’s gone beyond what I thought it would be.”
Her Facebook page, “Pandamanda Transplant” — so named because of Messinger’s love of pandas — has been inundated with condolences and comments from people all over the world since her passing.
“Social media is blowing my mind,” Mitch said. “The word has gotten out there about cystic fibrosis.”
He looks forward to someday seeing both of his daughters again.
“It’s a hard road, but you know, it’s what’s on the other side of the road,” he said. “I’m hoping we’ll all be together again.”
In keeping with what Messinger wanted, Mitch said there won’t be a funeral or memorial service per se.
“She wanted what her sister got,” he said. “A big party.”
A celebration of life party is set for 4 to 11 p.m., on Saturday, Jan. 19, at the Key Peninsula Civic Center, 17010 South Vaughn Rd. KPN, in Vaughn.
“Instead of tears and crying, we’re going to try joy and laughter,” Mitch said.
In lieu of flowers, he requested that donations be made to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
“They gotta find a cure for it,” he said. “That’s all there is to it.”
Reporter Brett Davis can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @gateway_brett.