Jessie Anna Starnes was the kind of child that you could just see the love come out of her when she smiled. She knew when someone needed an extra hug. She was so giving and loving to everyone.
Jessie was in good health, as far as her mom knew. They were spending Spring Break together, doing all the things she wanted to do. It was a wonderful time.
We hadn’t been home long from all our outings that day when suddenly she fell, calling out “Mama” like she was scared. I thought that was odd because the fall was in the living room, not far, and it really shouldn’t have hurt. I was afraid she might have twisted her leg or something. I ran to her and she was limp. She began to have a seizure, which had never happened before. I called 911 and during the call she quit breathing. I began CPR on her and continued until the Sheriff’s Department and Hamilton County Ambulance Service arrived. They picked her up quickly and took her to the stretcher, put her in the ambulance and began to take care of her. All of this just took minutes, but the time for the ambulance arrival felt like an hour. I asked to go with them, they said there wasn’t room. I knew better and I also knew in my heart I wouldn’t want to see all they were doing.
With hope in my heart and fear in my head, I was taken to T.C. Thompson Children’s Emergency Room by a dear friend. They were busy working on Jessie in the ER and then after some tests she was sent to the Pediatric ICU. We waited for some word. I felt I was in a dream.
By the next day, after several tests, we got the bad news that Jessie had no brain activity. Before that news was given, her father and I had already discussed organ donation if the news was bad. We both agreed that this giving, loving child would want to do one last thing to help others. We wanted her death to give hope to someone else, though we were heartbroken.
See, when Jessie was at school she would give away her supplies to other kids that either forgot them or just didn’t have what they needed. Often she would come home asking for more pencils, paper, folders, etc. I would ask her why in the world she was using so many supplies. Her teacher told me that she always took care of the others when they needed something. They have made her desk now the “supply desk.”
So, we could just hear Jessie saying in her sweet voice, “Here, you can borrow mine.” We knew organ donation was our choice to keep her wonderful, giving spirit alive.