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Brandy blazed transplant trail with dignity

On April 8, Brandy Stroeder succumbed to cystic fibrosis. Her journey had taken her down a scary path, but she was brave enough to let us tag along.

We suffer a collective loss.

We all rooted for her in different ways. Some people gave in the form of money or offers of money. Most of us supported her with our hopes and prayers.

Losing a child is unimaginable to those who've been spared the experience. For parents who've been down that particular spiral of grief, hope is the last holdout.

When a parent is told by a doctor that his or her child will die without a medical procedure, and then swiftly informed that that procedure is not covered by insurance Ñ as Brandy's was not Ñ it's worse than a nightmare.

Insurance companies opt out of covering surgeries if they are elective or experimental Ñ experimental being code for long odds.

While insurance companies use statistics and percentages to determine such odds, I have a difficult time reducing a child's life to a number.

Last December, Brandy lost her appeal to get the state of Oregon to pay for a heart-lung-liver transplant through her insurer, the Oregon Health Plan. But she kept the faith.

'She didn't take on this fight for selfish reasons,' says Jen Taft, who provides emotional and developmental assistance to patients and families at

Doernbecher Children's Hospital, where Brandy died.

'She fought for all those who will come after her needing organ transplants,' Taft says. 'She was passionate about providing hope in a helpless situation, and she wanted to help save other lives.'

In Brandy's case, the community's generous donations eliminated the 'what ifs' her family might have endured if the transplant organs had become physically, but not financially, available.

The staff at Doernbecher is reeling from her loss. Taft recalls how many nurses and technicians developed close ties to her over the years.

'When she realized that she was going to die, she asked me to stay with her to the end,' Taft says. 'What an honor to be with her at such a spiritual and personal moment.

'I don't know if I see death as horrible anymore after seeing her grace,' she reflects. 'She embraced it. She wasn't fighting for her life: In the end, she was fighting for the transition.'

Diane Dennis-Crosland's new radio show, 'Family Survival,' will begin April 28 on KPAM (860 AM). Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..