Being an older sibling to a medically fragile child was an experience that had a lasting effect on my life. In July of 2013, my mother gave birth to fraternal twins named Maryssa and Malinah. Soon after they were born, Maryssa was sent to the Cleveland Clinic to receive treatment for her congenital heart defect. As an older sibling, the first thing I wanted to do was see my sisters who were ten years younger than me. After a few days I grew worried that I still had not gotten to see my new baby sisters. I thought about how most older siblings enter the hospital room right after the baby is born and get to hold them. How come I did not get to experience this joy everyone else got? I grew increasingly curious and ended up asking my parents why I still had not seen either of the twins. They explained that they were born over 2 months early and were very sick. After several months, the twins came home, and we all lived together until one day when Maryssa stopped breathing at home. The ambulance rushed her to the hospital, and she was admitted for months. She ended up at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and an open-heart surgery was performed. At this time, Maryssa was 2 years old, and her heart was as big as a strawberry. The heart surgery was thought to be successful for one day, but internal bleeding occurred, and she was announced brain dead the next day. She passed away at 6:10pm on November 13, 2015. During this time, many people think about the parents and how hard it must be for them to lose a child. And while it is a traumatic event in their lives, it is also extremely difficult for the siblings of the child. As a 13-year-old, I did not know how to properly process such emotions, so I pushed them far away for a very long time. As I grew older and became more independent, I embraced healthy coping mechanisms and grew to accept the death of my sister, although the pain never really goes away.
One month after Maryssa’s passing, my family and I decided to start up a non-profit named Maryssa’s Mission Foundation. Our goal is to provide food, love, and lodging for families of medically fragile children. We accomplish this goal by hosting a series of fundraisers throughout the year. Our largest event is our Annual Maryssa’s Mission Foundation Banquet. This year it will be held on Maryssa and Malinah’s birthday, July 16, 2022. The banquet provides a filling dinner, raffle baskets, silent auction items, live music, and amazing company. The money raised goes directly to families with medically fragile children who are seeking aid during a challenging time in their lives. This formal event has an outstanding turnout every year, so we cannot wait to see you there. To purchase tickets, go to www. MMFkids.org.