Friday, July 29, 2011

The World has lost an angel, but Heaven has gained one

On July 17, 2011 a good friend of mine passed away.  She was only 26 and yet lived her life to the fullest right up to the end.

Chelsea Ann Umbach Yates was an amazing woman and her passing has left a hole in my heart.

Chelsea was a fighter.  When she was 15 she was diagnosed with Primary Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension.  When I met Chelsea she was 24 and living in Birmingham, Alabama awaiting a double lung and heart transplant.  I didn't meet Chelsea in the conventional way.  I met her on-line on a Bulletin Board for stitchers.  Chelsea loved to cross stitch and especially loved Heaven and Earth designs and Chatelaines by Martina Weber.  She was pretty well confined to home because she was weak in body, but she was never weak in spirit.  She did not feel sorry for herself and instead chose to put her all into everything she did.  She stitched a lot, talked to us on the board a lot and poured out her feelings for life to us on a daily basis.  During her time in Alabama she also completed her master's degree in English Lit - with A's.  Her humor was contagious and I've laughed at her posts and felt uplifted by her too many times to count.  Unless you have shared a friendship on-line you might not understand how well you can get to know someone without actually meeting them, but trust me and know that you can.  I felt closer to Chelsea then I have to some of my other friends. 

Chelsea lived with her boyfriend Robert who is a very special person.  He made sure she kept to her strict low-sodium diet and cared for her in only a way someone who truly loves someone can.   He was by her side throughout the good and the bad.

On January 4, 2010 Chelsea's prayers were answered and after having been on the waiting list for an organ donor for over 3 years, Chelsea received the gift of new lungs and a heart.  The surgery is definitely not an easy one and not without risks, but Chelsea came through the ordeal  wonderfully. 

On March 28, 2010, she and Robert were married in her hometown of New Orleans.  She was a beautiful bride and was surrounded by the love of her friends and family.    It was a dream come true.

Shortly therafter, she and Robert moved back to New Orleans to begin their new life as husband and wife.  Chelsea was getting stronger every day and life was good.  They bought a house and she was working at her mother's Scuba Shop and was looking forward to a happy life.   Although she was busy almost all the time and making up for time lost while she was so sick, she still managed to stitch now and then and also kept in touch with the friends she made on the stitching bulletin board.  We were all thrilled she was finding joy in everything she did.

Sadly on July 15, 2011 Chelsea developed Pneumonia and was rushed by jet to the hospital in Birmingham where she had received her heart and lungs and they tried valiantly to save her.  Unfortunately they were not successful and Chelsea lost her battle on July 17th.

She has left behind hundreds of people who knew and loved her and she touched each of us in ways I can't even begin to tell you about.  She was courageous and a true hero and I will miss her for the rest of my life.  She was wise beyond her years and I just know that she is somewhere in heaven and I know she is still smiling and is an angel there, just as she was here.

In closing this post I want everyone to know how much the gift from her donor changed Chelsea's life.  She had 18 months of living how she deserved to live.  Without this gift, she would have succumbed to her illness.  Please consider becoming a donor and help change someone else's life.  It's the most unselfish present you can give someone.

I will never forget you Chelsea....with love my friend....


threadbear said...

such a beautiful tribute x

leeni1176 said...

Thanks Jo...There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about her.

Brande Guisbert said...

I never knew this was here <3 Beautiful!

leeni1176 said...

Hi Brandi...I started the blog a long time ago and I guess you can see I haven't kept up with it. Still think of Chelsea all the time and whenever I talk about her I always get choked up.