THE REST OF THE STORY . . .
picks up where the book leaves off
(last updated October 5, 2008)
UPDATE OF OCTOBER 11, 2005:
Jessica finished up her sophomore year at Utah State in April 2005 and landed a great summer job as a wildlife intern at Deseret Land and Livestock, a 200,000 acre ranch in Northern Utah. She was in her element, living in her own apartment at the ranch, doing research on sage grouse and pronghorn antelope. She thought the toughest part of her summer would be missing her boyfriend Ben, who had taken a job in Alaska for the summer.
Suddenly in June 2005, Jessica began having trouble swallowing and keeping food down. Dr. Fang, director of the gastroenterology department at the University of Utah Medical Center, performed an esophagogastroscopy (EGD) examination by passing a scope down her throat into her stomach under general anesthesia on July 9, 2005. What he discovered during the scoping was a large hole in the side of her neoesophagus (interposed jejunum which had replaced her esophagus five years ago) and through that hole he was able to see her tracheal stents. Now, theoretically, the esophagus is the esophagus and the trachea is the trachea, and one should not be able to look directly through one into the other. Jessica had a big problem, something called a "tracheoesophageal fistula." Food and ingested fluids were able to pass out of her neoesophagus and into her chest cavity and her lungs . . . not a good situation.
Following the scoping, Jessica spent three days in the hospital while her docs tried to figure out the best way to deal with this problem. Their only option was open-chest surgery to try to either repair the jejunal interposition, or replace it by pulling her stomach up into her chest. Nobody could believe that she didn't have massive infection from having food dumped into her chest cavity and her lungs for who-knows-how-long. Jessca was discharged to home with a feeding tube and instructions not to eat a THING by mouth until surgery could be performed.
On August 2, 2005 Jessica underwent a nine-hour surgery at University of Utah Medical Center, during which cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Karwande -- (Remember him? He opened her up five years ago to remove a tumor from her trachea.) -- removed the disintegrating jejunum and pulled her stomach up into her chest. This procedure is called a "gastric pull-up.". A new ENT surgeon (to us), Dr. Sharma, repaired the hole in the side of her trachea.
After one week in the surgical intensive care unit (SICU) on a ventilator, an attempt was made to wean Jessica from the vent and then extubate her. We nearly lost her when her vocal cords tried to swell shut. Jessica was emergently re-intubated and placed back on the ventilator. The following day her lungs collapsed one after the other, and again we almost lost her. The rapid insertion of a second chest tube saved her life.
When Dr. Elstad performed bronchoscopy to try to get a handle on what was going on, he discovered a new hole in her trachea, just where it divides into the right and left mainstem bronchi (an area called the carina). At the time it was thought that this hole would be very difficult if not impossible to repair surgically or with a stent, but fortunately, the hole has begun to heal on its own.
It's believed that the radiation Jessica received to combat the squamous cell esophageal cancer back in 2000 caused a breakdown of the jejunal and tracheal tissue in her chest. The hole in her trachea, which had precipitated the placement of the original tracheal stent back in January 2001, had never healed and had, in fact, gotten larger over the ensuing years. This allowed the outside surface of the tracheal stent to abrade the abutting jejunal tissue, causing the hole in it. We were told that this catastrophic failure of her digestive and respiratory tracts should have killed Jessica, but she somehow survived without getting septic. The surgery to rebuild her digestive tract and to repair her trachea had come just in time.
After six weeks in the hospital (four weeks in SICU and two weeks on a regular nursing floor), Jessica was discharged to home on September 13, 2005, again with a feeding tube.
We are very grateful, first to God, and then to the wonderful surgeons and physicians at University Hospital, particularly Mark Elstad (her pulmonologist), S.V. Karwande (cardiothoracic surgeon), Pramod Sharma (ENT surgeon), Matt Proctor (ENT), Fiona Buckley (anesthesiology resident who emergently re-intubated her), Richard Barton (ICU doc/director who emergently inserted a chest tube), and many others, including Dr. Smith, Dr. Arledge, Dr. Barr, Dr. Andrews, Dr. Chakravarthy, and Dr. Miller, among others. The nursing care she received at University Hospital was top notch, both in SICU and on the third floor.
Our church, Hidden Valley Presbyterian in Draper, Utah, threw a fundraiser for Jessica, raising over $5,000 to help with medical bills and next semester's housing costs, in part because Jessica had to give up her summer job. Our thanks go out to Wanda Miller, Pastor Lee Mashburn and Laurie Mashburn, and all of those who came out to support Jessica that evening. Our wonderful church family at Hidden Valley Presbyterian has been more than generous in providing meals for us.
Alan's co-workers at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and mine at Utah Imaging have been liberal with their gifts, good will, and in granting us time off from work to be with Jessica. Cindy Fortie deserves special thanks for bearing the brunt of transcription duties at Utah Imaging while I lived at the hospital with Jessica.
We appreciate the prayers of friends and family around the country on Jessica's behalf. We estimate there were people praying for our Jess in at least fourteen states and two foreign countries.
Jessica is recovering from her surgery at home now, being cared for by big sister Janelle with two-year-old nephew Quinn's "help." Though still very weak and plagued with frequent nausea and vomiting, Jessica's had the feeding tube removed and can now eat small portions of regular food. She spends most of her days reading and watching reruns of "Law and Order." Boyfriend Ben is back from Alaska and is a frequent visitor. Jessica is working with physical therapists to gain strength and stamina, but it's coming very, very slowly.
Please continue to keep Jessica in your prayers? Thank you.
UPDATE OF OCTOBER 14, 2005:
After a couple of weeks of increasingly difficult breathing and increasing rather than decreasing fatigue, I called Jessica's pulmonologist. Dr. Elstad scheduled her for bronchoscopy to see what was going on in her airway on 10/13/05. Dr. Elstad's "look-see" bronchs are done in outpatient surgery at the University of Utah Medical Center, with the patient being given some sedation but no general anesthesia. Jessica hates these and has had about 27 of them so far over the last few years.
After the "look-see" bronch, Dr. Elstad showed us pictures of what he found in her trachea. The good news was that the ominous hole in Jessica's carina had totally healed shut -- WAAAAAHOOOOO!! -- BUT the bad news was that her body had just kept on making scar . . . enough scar that it had pretty much formed a plug in her lower trachea. That would explain the respiratory distress and fatigue.
Dr. Elstad said he'd need to re-bronch Jessica, this time in an O.R. and under general anesthesia, to apply a laser to the scar tissue and burn it up. Now, this is kind of tricky in people with stents, because stents, being made of plastic, are pretty flammable. He bumped his next case up until later in the evening and got Jessica right into an O.R.
In a two-and-a-half-hour procedure, Dr. Elstad and his fellow Dr. Chakravarthy were able to burn up the scar tissue and open Jessica's trachea to it's fullest extent. We brought her home a few hours after the procedure and she was in fine spirits. I think Jessica was relieved that the problem was JUST scar tissue, something she has battled for some time, but which is fixable (at least on a temporary basis) under bronchoscopy. We do not know if the scar will return.
Again, we have much to be thankful for! Had we not paid attention to this, her trachea would have just closed off, essentially strangling her from the inside. We praise God for His wonderful goodness to us and for the wonderful medical care Jessica receives from her docs.
UPDATE OF NOVEMBER 8, 2005:
Jessica spent three days in the hospital last week because of difficulty breathing. It was discovered that the upper of her two newer stents had migrated "south" and was partially nested inside the lower stent. This allowed the upper part of her trachea to go unprotected, and scar started forming there again. She will probably need a new stent soon. She is pretty discouraged. Please keep her in your prayers.
UPDATE OF DECEMBER 15, 2005:
Jessica went in last Friday (12/09/05) to have the scar tissue in her upper trachea scraped out and a new stent placed. Dr. Elstad was able to grasp and remove the displaced upper stent and placed a new one appropriately. Because of the recent propensity for Jessica's vocal cords to swell up during surgery down her "pipes," she was watched very carefully in postop and sent home in good condition several hours after the operation.
Twenty-four hours later, however, Saturday afternoon, she became severely short of breath. She was taken to the nearest hospital (Tooele) by ambulance, where the ER docs contacted Dr. Elstad and a decision was made to intubate Jessica and airlift her to University Hospital in Salt Lake. Dr. Elstad took her to the OR at University Hospital and determined that the problem was vocal cord swelling, so she was admitted to the medical intensive care unit (MICU) and placed on several medications including steroids and nitrox. Three days later she was discharged to home in good shape, although she is frustatrated and discouraged with the way her life is going right now. Please continue to keep her in your prayers.
UPDATE OF JANUARY 3, 2006:
Jessica is back at Utah State University (!!), though classes will not start for another week. She's doing pretty well, but struggling to eat enough to keep up her weight (down to 100 pounds). Her breathing is great!
She has a new young man in her life, Scott, whom she met in November while she was living at home with us. They seem crazy about each other and have a lot of interests in common.
Thank you for your prayers!
UPDATE OF JANUARY 25, 2006:
Jessica spent the last three days in medical ICU at University Hospital--again!-- because her vocal cords swelled up after a little cold she had last week. This was her fifth hospitalization since last July. She's getting tired of this and resisted contacting Dr. Elstad for help (fearing that he might want to hospitalize her). Jessica's breathing had rapidly worsened for about five days before she finally consented to go to the emergency room at 2 am on Sunday morning. Consequently, when she DID seek help, she was in terrible shape, struggling to suck in air--and totally exhausted from the effort.
After three days of inpatient treatment with steroids, both via nebulizer and intravenously (which make her feel lousy), high-flow oxygen under pressure (C-PAP), and antibiotics, Jessica is breathing well again and back at Utah State. Phew!
Probably the best thing about this hospitalization is that Jessica now has a plan for trying to prevent vocal cord swelling in the future. She has some prescriptions which, after making contact with Dr. Elstad, she can use the next time she starts noticing herself struggling to breathe.
Please continue to keep her in your prayers. She is sick of being sick.
UPDATE OF FEBRUARY 14, 2006:
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY! It is with great joy that we announce the engagement of Jessica Clark and Scott Tayon. Though they had been talking about getting married for several weeks, on Friday, February 10th, Scott presented Jessica with an official marriage proposal, diamond ring and all. We are so delighted! Scott is a wonderful, thoughtful, caring young man who has captured all of our hearts. He and Jessica are planning to marry on August 16th. We could not be happier for them!
UPDATE OF APRIL 30, 2006:
Jessica has finished up her school year at Utah State and will be living in Logan for the summer. She has moved into the house she and Scott will share when they wed in August. Jessica has two jobs for the summer, one doing mule deer telemetry around the Logan area, and a second completing her unfinished sage grouse project at Deseret Land and Livestock, disrupted by her surgeries last summer.
Jessica had another lower tracheal scar clean-out a couple of weeks ago and all went very well. She is feeling better than she has since last summer! And Scott, dear boy, is finally getting to see what kind of girl he's marrying. He's never known the REAL Jessica, the feisty, high-spirited, fun-loving Jessica with boundless energy, who is just now recovering and re-emerging from that horrible summer of 2005. Scott is getting to know the REAL Jessica---and he STILL wants to marry her!
UPDATE OF SEPTEMBER 6, 2006:
THE WEDDING WAS MAGICAL!!!!!
On a bright and breezy mid-August evening, Jessica Helena Clark and Scott Anthony Tayon were married at the foot a soaring 40-foot waterfall before about 160 friends and family. Guests came from as far away as Maine and Florida. The wedding ceremony was conducted by our pastor, Rev. Lee Mashburn of Hidden Valley Presbyterian Church. The groom's dad, Leonard, read I Corinthians 13. And our former pastor from Maine (now from Florida), Rev. Randy Patterson, delivered a short message.
What a beautiful celebration of love and courage and triumph over adversity this wedding was!
A few of the things I will never forget are . . .
Scott's face when he first glimpses his beaming bride walking down the steps toward him . . .
Jessica hugging and kissing her dad after he gives her away . . .
the bridesmaids giggling when Pastor Mashburn's tartan shawl falls to the ground (because they think at first it's his kilt!) . . .
Pastor Patterson describing holding Jessica in his arms as an infant and baptizing her as a covenant child . . .
Pastor Mashburn and Scott's uncle playing bagpipes, while a buck deer strolls along the top of the hill and pauses at the crest of the waterfall to survey the scene . . .
Jessica and Scott stealing a kiss during the reception, with the sunset of their first day as man and wife fading behind them . . .
Grampy and Grammy Hovestadt shaking Dr. Elstad's hand for the first time, and gravely thanking him for saving their granddaughter's life . . .
Jessica dancing with her daddy to "Butterfly Kisses" . . .
Jessica and Scott, lost in each other, dancing their first dance . . .
the happy couple running for the limo through a flurry of rose petals and good wishes . . .
After a short honeymoon in Yellowstone, Jessica is back at Utah State and Scott is still working at his job in Grantsville while he hunts for a new job in the Logan area. They are VERY HAPPY!
To view photos of this beautiful wedding and reception, you may go to the photographer's website:
|Beneath the photos, select the text that says "Click here to view your session," then select (from the August 2006 events) "Jessica and Scott."
UPDATE OF OCTOBER 4, 2006:
Jessica had bronchoscopic surgery last evening to remove scar tissue from that pesky area below the lower of her two stents, just at the carina. It has been a little over eight weeks since her last scar clean-out surgery. In that eight weeks she has gotten married, had a wonderful honeymoon, and started her junior year at Utah State. She has also had and recovered from a bout of pneumonia a few weeks ago.
Jessica came through the procedure very well, spending last night in the hospital with her dear hubby Scott by her side. Today she is back in school.
In a little over a week, on Friday, October 13th (GOOD THING WE'RE NOT SUPERSTITIOUS!), Dr. Elstad and Dr. Chakravarthy are planning to take Jessica back to the OR, remove her two accessible stents, and replace them with a couple of new stents that they hope will be long enough to cover the troublesome area just at the carina. Dr. Elstad would like to have performed the surgery on Friday, October 6th, but since that was Jessica's 21st birthday and she did NOT want to spend her birthday in the hospital (!), everyone agreed that a one-week delay would not do any harm. The risks for this type of bronchoscopic surgery are, however, considerably greater than for a regular cleanout, BUT if the new stents work as well as everyone hopes, this could reduce or stop the formation of scar at the carina. We are all very hopeful that this will be the case!
Please keep her in your prayers?
|UPDATE OF OCTOBER 14, 2006 (revised 10/16/06):
Jessica had bronchoscopic surgery yesterday to replace her two accessible stents with two new stents. She came through the three-and-a-half-hour surgery pretty well and did not spend the night in the hospital, though she was feeling pretty punky.
The new stents, however, were not totally cooperative, and Dr. Elstad explained that they are each malpositioned--the lower one just a little too low, and the upper one just a little too high. Dr. Elstad will perform laryngoscopy on November 1st to determine what to do next.
UPDATE OF OCTOBER 27, 2006:
PHEW! WHAT A WEEK THIS HAS BEEN . . . and one that none of us would care to live over again!
On Monday night Jessica called to let us know that Scott was in the Emergency Department at University Hospital with right lower quadrant pain . . . and on Tuesday at 6 a.m. he was taken to surgery for an emergency appendectomy. Jessica, who was scheduled for a full day of classes in Logan on Tuesday -- and a quiz to boot -- hit the road for Salt Lake to be with her husband. She arrived just as Scott was coming out of surgery.
They were sitting in Scott's sixth floor hospital room when Dr. Chakravarthy caught up with Jessica. Now Jessica had been in the process of trying to get hold of either Dr. Elstad or Dr. Chak because she was very hoarse and her breathing was becoming more and more labored ever since the stent replacement two weeks before. Scott had finally convinced her that she needed Dr. Elstad's help, so she placed the call. Jessica thought she might need to be on steroids or antibiotics or both.
When Dr. Chak spoke with Jessica, they (along with Dr. Elstad) agreed to try to get Jessica into an OR that very afternoon for "look-see" bronchoscopy to find out what was going on with her airway. Leaving Scott in his sixth floor hospital bed at about 5 p.m., Jessica hiked down to the OR on the third floor when Dr. Chak came for her.
The bronch was started at about 5:45 and about an hour later, Dr. Elstad came out of the OR and sat down with me (and Pastor Mashburn) in the waiting room. The news he bore was pretty scary. Jessica's vocal cords and the part of the trachea just below the vocal cords (and just above the upper of her two stents) were seriously swollen and inflamed. The vocal cords had swollen to the point that, after the bronch was completed and while they were trying to get Jessica to wake up, Jessica could not get a breath in. The anesthesia was immediately cranked back up and she was rapidly re-intubated. This prompt action was successful in re-establishing her airway and saving her life!
Jessica was then placed on a ventilator and moved to MICU (Medical ICU), where the plan was to administer high-dose IV steroids to try to reduce the swelling. Dr. Elstad wanted to keep her there, sedated, on the ventilator until the next afternoon (Wednesday), when he would take her to the OR for extubation. In the operating room there would be plenty of help and lots of options for keeping her airway open if she were to continue to be obstructed by the swelling.
Scott, when I went up to tell him what had happened to Jessica, was in the process of being discharged. He climbed out of his hospital bed, got dressed, and was wheelchaired down to MICU to check on his wife. It must have been pretty scary for him to see Jessica like that, unconscious, on a ventilator, with lines and tubes everywhere, especially when a couple of hours before they had been laughing and joking together.
The next afternoon, Jessica was taken to the OR and successfully extubated. Her breathing was not great at first, but it gradually improved until she could be discharged on Thursday afternoon. She is still on high-dose steroids and antibiotics.
Jessica and Scott could not wait to leave the hospital and have retreated to their little home in Logan for a few days of shared rest and recuperation.
UPDATE OF DECEMBER 10, 2006:
For about the last month Jessica has had trouble breathing. She was placed on steroids a couple of times, with some relief while she was taking the drugs, but as soon as the steroids were tapered off, her breathing declined rapidly and she had to really work to get in each breath. When she underwent laryngoscopy and bronchoscopy last week, her stents looked fine, with no scar formation in the past two months (!), BUT it was discovered that Jessica's gastric pull-up (where her stomach was pulled up into her chest to act as her esophagus) has been producing gastric acid, which is getting refluxed into her upper airway. Gastric acid has been burning and irritating her larynx and vocal cords, and that may have been a cause of her recurrent problems with vocal cord swelling. Jessica has been placed on Zantac and Prevacid. Already, after just a few days, her breathing sounds better. She has finals next week. We're very hopeful that these medications may curb what has been a real life-threatening problem for her!
UPDATE OF JANUARY 8, 2007:
Jessica is back at school, commencing Spring semester of her junior year today. For a while last week, we wondered if she would be there at all . . .
Jessica started out the Christmas break with her now-annual oncology checkup with Dr. Samlowski at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Chest x-ray looked clear, lab work was good, and Dr. Samlowski gave her a clean bill of health--no sign of recurrent cancer. She's also been complaining of increasing headaches for the past couple of years, and a brain MRI was done, showing no evidence of tumor.
Then, over the course of the next week-and-a-half, Jessica's breathing became increasingly labored, her chronic cough worsened, she had fever, chills and vomiting. She thought she had a cold. On New Year's Day, she was so weak that, at the urging of the ENT resident on call, she finally consented to let me take her to the ER at University Hospital. Her own docs (Marshall Smith and Mark Elstad) came in on the holiday to examine her and determined that she had pneumonia and a pleural effusion (a small fluid collection between the lung and chest wall), later confirmed by chest x-ray. Jessica was immediately admitted and spent the next three days in the hospital on IV steroids, antibiotics, Prilosec, etc. Because of the vomiting and her continued inability to gain weight, a barium swallow was done which showed her gastric pull-up to be intact. Jessica was discharged on Thursday, and she and Scott returned to Logan this past weekend. She is much improved! Jessica's voice sounds stronger and her breathing is easier than we have seen it in months. Oh, and did I mention that on laryngoscopy there does not appear to be ANY scar formation in her trachea? The stents are doing the job and holding back the scar! WOOOHOOOOOOO!!!
Jessica Helena Clark Tayon
|October 6, 1985 - January 15, 2007|
After courageously battling esophageal/tracheal cancer and its after-effects for seven years, Jessica Helena Clark Tayon, 21, passed away in the arms of her loving husband Scott on Monday evening, January 15, 2007.
Jessica was born in Waterville, Maine, on October 6, 1985 to Alan and Linda Clark, the youngest of three daughters. The family moved to Erda, Utah, in 1996, and Jessica graduated from Grantsville High School in 2003 as an honor student, athlete, National Honor Society member, Academic Olympian, and Sterling Scholar in Science. Jessica worked summer jobs for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the Bureau of Land Management in Ely, Nevada, Deseret Land and Livestock, and Utah State University. She was greatly admired for her work ethic and spunky can-do attitude. Jessica displayed a feisty passion for life and was driven to prove she could do anything she set her mind to despite repeated challenges to her health. She loved to hunt and fish. At the time of her death, Jessica was a junior in the College of Natural Resources at Utah State University in Logan, Utah, majoring in wildlife science - a Dean's list student and a Quinney scholar. Jessica was a member of Hidden Valley Presbyterian Church and taught Sunday school there prior to leaving for college. On August 16, 2006 in a joyful celebration of love and triumph over adversity, Jessica wed Scott Tayon, a young man uniquely suited by God to be her helpmeet and soul mate.
Jessica is survived by her dear husband Scott, of Grantsville; parents Alan and Linda Clark of Erda; in-laws Janet and Leonard Tayon of Grantsville; sister Janelle Clark (Tom Arnold), nephew Quinn and niece Kiara of Grantsville; sister Melissa Taylor (AJ Taylor) of Grantsville; maternal grandparents John and Helen Hovestadt of Greene, Maine; paternal grandmother Anna Clark of Ft. Myers, Florida; and several aunts and uncles.
The family would like to express its deep appreciation to the doctors at Primary Children's Medical Center, University Hospital, and the Huntsman Cancer Institute, particularly doctors Richard Black, S.V. Karwande, Mark Elstad, Marshall Smith, Srinivas Chakravarthy, and Wolf Samlowski for the outstanding and compassionate care they provided and for the extra years we were able to share with Jessica. We bear this loss with gratitude for all that God has allowed Jessica to do and be in this life, knowing that she is now in her Savior's arms, breathing freely and partaking of all the joys Heaven has to offer.
Visiting hours at Tate Mortuary, 110 South Main Street, Tooele on Friday, January 19, 2007, from 6 to 8 p.m. A celebration of Jessica's life/memorial service at Hidden Valley Presbyterian Church, 12883 South 1300 East, Draper on Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 10 a.m. Interment in the Grantsville Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Jessica Clark Tayon Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o College of Natural Resources, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-5200.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
This has been a tough but amazing week since Jessica's passing on Monday night. We have been awed by the manner in which it appears God prepared His child to come Home, and at the comfort He has given to each of us left behind. A few weeks ago Jessica asked me if I thought there would be dairy products in Heaven, since she had been lactose-intolerant since her gastric pull-up in the summer of 2005. I assured her there would be. After all, God says in His word there's a banquet prepared for us there. Her response was, "Good, 'cause I really miss ice cream." Jessica had been trying to gain weight, but was down to less than 90 pounds at that point. She had to work for every breath and her body was getting tired. I believe she knew she was nearing the end of her stuggles here.
Jessica drove down from college to spend the long Martin Luther King holiday weekend with her family. Scott was working part of the time, so she hung out and spent time with each of us. She seemed to be breathing well and was very happy and upbeat.
On Monday Jessica spent much of the day with her sister Janelle, enjoying her niece and nephew, Kiara and Quinn. Late in the afternoon, Jessica returned to Scott's parents' home (where they stay when they're down here from college) to find Scott's dad, Leonard, had prepared them a beautiful dinner. Scott came home from work and they enjoyed a romantic candlelight dinner for two. Their plan was for both of them to drive to Logan after dinner so that Jessica could return to classes on Tuesday. God had a different plan.
After dinner, Jessica collapsed and stopped breathing. Despite valiant attempts by Scott and his dad, rescue paramedics and the emergency room staff to resuscitate her, she was gone. Though we could have insisted that her poor little 85-pound body be placed on a ventilator and kept going artificially, Jessica had always made it plain to us that she never wanted to be a "vegetable." The code was called -- CPR was stopped -- at around 8 p.m.
Jessica had often expressed a desire to be an organ or tissue donor, and she was granted that wish. Harvesting of her corneas, heart valves, some arteries and veins, ligaments, tendons, muscle, bone and skin was performed in the wee hours of Tuesday.
A viewing was held on Friday night, January 19th. About 250 people came out. Into the coffin with her remains, Scott tucked a stuffed reindeer that he'd given her and that she'd loved, and I placed Robinson Bear, her faithful recovery room buddy. Her lifeless body, dressed in a camo vest, turtleneck and jeans, looked so different from the Jessica we all knew and loved! The smile, the dimple, the spark, the joy were gone from it. Jessica was not there. She was in Heaven. I like to think she was eating chocolate ice cream with the Savior.
Jessica's memorial service at Hidden Valley Presbyterian Church on Saturday the 20th was beautiful, attended by about 300 people. In addition to dozens of floral arrangements, on a table at the front of the sanctuary were arranged a few of her favorite things . . . her shotgun, an elk antler, a bighorn sheep horn, binoculars, her basketball, her softball glove, her Bible--well-marked and well-read, and a wedding picture of her and Scott. Other mementos and pictures from her amazing life were placed on tables around the back of the sanctuary.
Her body was laid to rest later that day in the Grantsville Cemetery, just as fresh snow began to fall, blanketing the raw scar in the earth where her remains had been placed.
Please pray for all of us left behind, but especially for Scott. Jessica lived each day to the fullest and left a lasting legacy of love and faith and courage. We miss her terribly.
UPDATE OF MARCH 5, 2007
Seven weeks have slipped by since Jessica was called Home. For those of us left behind -- her two sisters and their families, her grandparents, her friends, her classmates, her teachers and professors, her church family, her daddy and me, her beloved husband Scott -- this is still a time of horrible pain and loss. Despite our understanding that Jessica's poor little ravaged body was tired and she was ready to let go of it, despite our assurance that she's in Paradise with the only One she loves more than Scott, despite our belief that she's at peace and breathing and eating freely, WE STILL MISS HER!
We've returned to our jobs and everyday lives, but nothing feels the same as it did seven weeks ago. Though I go through the motions of normal activities, I often find myself dwelling on how much I miss her. But if I do get busy with some task or other and forget for a while, when the realization returns, as it inexorably does, I take it with all the grace of a fist to the solar plexus.
Her dad, inscrutable as ever, seems to be doing fine.
Scott has thrown himself into a second job in an effort to reduce the "down time" where memories and regrets and pain can gain a foothold. Scott's grandfather passed away two weeks ago -- another hard blow -- and my heart breaks for him.
My dear friends Laurel and Nan, whom I've known since college (over 38 years ago now, but don't tell anybody that!) shanghaied me to the Gulf coast of Florida for a few days last week. They invited our former pastor's wife Maggie to join us from the Atlantic side of Florida, too, and we four friends laughed, cried and prayed together. It helped. I still have a gaping Jessica-shaped wound in my heart, but after spending a few days with these Christian friends, I am blessed to feel just the faintest little rim of scar starting to form around the edges of that wound.
Another blessing is the birth of two new granddaughters -- precious twin girls born to Jessica's sister Melissa and her husband AJ last Tuesday, February 27th. The larger of the two and first born, Jaycee Ann, weighed in at 5 pounds 5 ounces and is 17 inches long. The smaller, Jacque Lyn, weighed 3 pounds 13 ounces and is also 17 inches long. Jacque is named after Jessica's nickname "Jack" and she's proven herself to be a scrappy little fighter all through this high-risk pregnancy.
I must here mention that we have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support and prayers from so many. This website alone has had over 12,900 hits since January 15th (up from an average of 750-1000 per month prior to that time). We've received hundreds of cards and letters and e-mails and phone calls from friends and strangers alike telling us how much Jessica meant to them and how her life impacted them. It is not possible for me to answer all of the messages we received, so please here let me express our appreciation for your many kind words of sympathy and encouragement and support.
I will continue to update this website occasionally, as healing continues. I've started a journal that may or may not turn into another book. No idea yet whether it will or not.
"The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 2:21.
UPDATE OF MONDAY, APRIL 16, 2007
Jessica will have been gone for three months tonight, a quarter of a year, a whole season. I dreaded the drive home from work tonight, a Monday, which is what I was doing when I got the phone call three months ago telling me that she was down and rescue was working on her.
I still miss my little girl every day, still cry over losing her every day, still wake up every morning with the gut-wrenching realization that she's no longer here with us.
While I deeply respect that fact that others miss the Jessica THEY knew, whether for just a short time or for many years, as her mom, I miss ALL the Jessicas . . .
I miss the bright-eyed, bald-headed infant Jessica, who played the part of baby Jesus in our live church nativity a few months after she was born . . .
I miss the sure-footed, rarely-down-once-she-learned-to-walk toddler, whose first full sentence was "'Nelle did it" (big sister Janelle) . . .
I miss the nursery schooler who once showed me a poster of a pair of albino tigers lounging on a riverbank full of rounded stones, and proclaimed, pointing to the stones, "They'll be having babies soon, 'cause look at all those EGGS there!" . . .
I miss the kindergartener who couldn't WAIT to get on the school bus that first time, and so wowed the school-readiness testers at Jefferson Village School that they let her start kindergarten at age four . . .
I miss the six-year-old who sang "What Child is This" in a duet with me during a Christmas service at our church, she standing on the stage and I on the floor so we'd be the same height . . .
I miss the second-grader who had her first baby tooth knocked out on the playground at Coastal Christian School during recess on PICTURE DAY (!), and smiled triumphantly and radiantly for the camera . . .
I miss the cross-country runner and T-ball player and softball player and basketball player and fisherman and rollerskater . . .
I miss the eight-year-old who, for ten bucks one weekend when I was out of town, sold her long hair to her sister (Janelle) who wanted to learn how to cut hair. I came home to find Jessica sporting a short and sassy (and pretty good!) bowl cut that suited her . . .
I miss the ten-year-old who, after playing her role in a school play, was approached by a teacher who proclaimed, "Jessica, that was wonderful! You're quite a little thespian!" to which Jessica replied indignantly, "Oh, NO, you're mistaken. I like boys!"
I miss the good student who all through her elementary years and even through high school and college (!) garnered teachers' glowing comments about her diligence and love of learning and positive attitude in school . . .
I miss the twelve-year-old who not only withstood but thrived from being uprooted and moved from Maine to Utah, coming home from the very first day in her new school with a new nickname, "Jack" . . .
I miss the herds of girlfriends who were attracted to Jessica's friendly personality and sense of "inclusiveness," and who trooped into our home on a regular basis . . .
I miss the succession of amazing young men who eventually started coming under her charms, especially THE ONE, Scott, who won her loving heart, swept her off her feet, and married her. They were perfect for each other . . .
More recently I miss the impromptu trips to Utah State when she got homesick and would call or text me, "Hey, Mommie, whatchadoin?" I'd drive up there after work and take her out to Olive Garden for some "Mommy time" and she'd fill me in on her life in college . . .
I miss the random text messages that would pop up on my cell phone during the day while I was at work. One of my favorites, coming out of the blue, was "So, I brown the sausages, and then what?" She was looking for help in preparing for Scott one of our family's favorite comfort foods, link sausages, gravy, mashed potatoes and creamed corn . . . soupy but, oh, so delicious!
Oh, I do MISS HER, but I'm just so grateful that Jessica loved the Lord Jesus as her Savior and put her faith and trust in Him from a young age. We talked about God a lot, and though she never found a church in Logan where she felt at home, I know she's at home with Him now in Paradise . . . WHAT COMFORT!!
And even though I cry as I say this, "PRAISE GOD!"
There. I made it through the three-month anniversary (three-monthiversary?) of losing her. Thanks for letting me ramble.
P.S. The first Jessica Clark Tayon Scholarship was awarded last Saturday night. The "Scholarship" page on this website has more information about that.
UPDATE OF MAY 7, 2007:
On Saturday, May 5, 2007, Scott, Janet and Leonard Tayon, Alan and I were honored to attend the graduation ceremonies for the College of Natural Resources Class of 2007 at Utah State University. To a standing ovation from Jessica's professors and fellow graduates, Scott stepped forward to accept, in her stead, a posthumous Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Science. It was a moving tribute to all of Jessica's hard work and dedication to her studies and an acknowledgement of the many lives she touched during her three-and-a-half years at Utah State. We're grateful for the many kindnesses that have been shown to us by the Utah State community that Jessica loved so much.
UPDATE OF AUGUST 30, 2007
Still relying on God's grace to get me through each day without my little girl here. I can count on one hand the number of days I have NOT broken down and cried at some point during the day. It doesn't take much, really . . . finding one of her balled up socks under my bed . . . a song on the radio . . . spotting a black Toyota 4-runner on the freeway . . . the word "heaven" in a hymn at church . . .
We've come through some tough days . . . I didn't elaborate in the previous entry about the graduation ceremony at which Utah State granted Jessica a degree posthumously, but that was a HORRIBLE experience . . . to be there among all those proud parents and all those joyous graduates . . . and we were the ones staring at the empty chair where she should have been . . . no photos for us . . . no moving of the tassel or tossing of the cap for her. It was torture.
August 16th was Jessica and Scott's first wedding anniversary. I found myself watching the clock and remembering what she'd been doing each hour of that magical day one year before. Three o'clock - spa treatment, makeup, hair . . . five o'clock - arrive at the wedding center . . . seven o'clock - walk down the aisle . . . ten-thirty - leave in the limo to start a new life with her sweet husband . . . I called Scott on their anniversary and he admitted to doing the same thing, watching the clock, reliving the best day of their lives together.
Got through what would have been her first day back to classes at Utah State on Monday, August 28th. A year ago she and Scott invited me up to dinner in Logan during this first week of classes. Taking her aside, I casually asked how she liked married life after two whole weeks of it. She proclaimed with great passion, "Mum! I didn't know people could BE this HAPPY!"
We have a few more "firsts" without her ahead of us. Jessica's birthday in October, Christmas, the anniversary in January of her passing. I'm dreading all of them.
Scott and I . . . and sister Melissa . . . and Melissa's now-six-month-old twin daughters, Jaycee and Jacque, are all going to Maine in September! Jessica had promised Scott that they'd get to Maine this summer, and I'm carrying through on her promise to him. Although parts of Maine so embued with memories of "little Jessica" will be difficult to revisit, I think the trip will be fun and good for us. I'm excited to be showing off my home state. And it will, of course, be wonderful to spend time with Scott, Melissa, the twins, my mom, dad and sister, and some old friends.
UPDATE OF OCTOBER 1, 2007:
Just returned from ten days in Maine with Scott, Melissa and the twin baby girls, Jaycee and Jacque. What a pleasure it was for Melissa and me to share with Scott some of the funny stories about our Jessica growing up, and to show him her childhood home and school and church and the beach where she learned to swim.
We visited my mom and dad and celebrated Dad's 80th birthday with a party at my sister Diane's home. My dad is still the spry, blonde-lusting, hup-two-three-four-Army-marching guy at 80 that he was at 30! My dear, patient mom has slowed down a little physically, but still keeps us in stitches with her stories. My sister Diane is a hoot!
We rented a cottage near Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, savoring the musty, woodsy "camp" smell that hit us each time we opened the door to enter. We ate lobstah and other (much-missed by me!) delicious seafood, soaked in the sights and smells and feel of the Atlantic, gave Scott the opportunity to climb (actually, run up!) a few of the hills-that-pass-for-mountains there in the East, and took to the sea on a four-masted schooner for a few hours.
With a sense of finality and -- for me, at least-- closure, Scott and I each released a handful of Jessica's hair (saved in a baggie from when she lost most of it during chemotherapy seven years ago) into the sea from her favorite rocky point, Hunter's Head (photo below).
Scott and I took a day trip to show him the Great North Woods around Moosehead Lake. Scott had never seen so many miles of uninterrupted trees! We had hopes of seeing a moose, but, alas, the moose must have known we were coming and hid. We did see a working logging operation with its mechanical harvester, skidder, and delimber, a thrill even for one such as I, who used to work for a logging company back in the days when "choppers" took down each tree and removed its limbs with axe and chainsaw.
The twins were wonderful on the trip and Melissa enjoyed showing off her beautiful baby girls. Everywhere we went people beamed at their bright baby smiles and squeals of delight. We attended Lakeview Presbyterian Church in Rockport, where friends Don and Laurel hosted a luncheon and we visited with about twenty-five to thirty of our dearest friends. We visited friends Julie and Rodney and their son, Misha, and had a reunion lunch with some of my former co-workers. Walter, RaeAnn and John.
Melissa had not been back to Maine in nine or ten years, so this trip rekindled some long-submerged homesickness in her.
I feel like this trip to Maine was a time of healing for me. I certainly got to know Scott better and to see some of the many qualities that attracted Jessica to him, his gentleness and patience and humor. What a fine, solid young man Scott is! I'm so delighted that he's in our family!
The days went all too quickly and we soon found ourselves on a plane headed back to Salt Lake City and our regular lives. But memories of a magical place called "Maine" will keep us warm for many days and weeks and months.
UPDATE OF JANUARY 17, 2008:
Can it really have been a whole year since God called Jessica home? The Christmas holidays that I was dreading have come and gone. As weird as this sounds, I was blessed to be very sick on both Christmas and New Year's Day with two different viruses that made me so miserable I couldn't think about anything except wishing that I felt better. God works in mysterious ways!
In retrospect, I've come to realize that last year at Christmas Jessica must already have been feeling some loosening of the bonds that held her here. She bought and bestowed all of her Christmas gifts weeks before Christmas actually arrived. She was giving away her own clothes and shoes and jackets left and right in the weeks leading up to January 15th. And two weeks before she died, Jessica had "the talk" with Scott about what to do if she passed away. Her instructions to him were to "move on and find someone else" (something he has not been able to bring himself to do yet) and to "keep the diamond engagement ring" he'd given her (also something he couldn't do).
It helps to know that Jessica was SO READY to go, even if we were not ready to LET her go.
We wanted to commemorate the anniversary of Jessica's death in some meaningful way, and found a few ways to do that.
1. The Jessica Clark Tayon Memorial Scholarship at Utah State University is now up near the $25,000 mark and is "endowed," meaning that the annual scholarship disbursement will come from the interest the fund earns from being invested, and therefore the scholarship will exist in perpetuity. In April $250 will be awarded to a deserving freshman or transfer student at Utah State pursuing a degree in Wildlife Science.
2. We have contracted with the Utah Department of Transportation to Adopt-A-Highway in Jessica's name. A two-mile stretch of Route 138 just east of Grantsville will be allocated to THE FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF JESSICA "JACK" CLARK TAYON for three roadside trash pick-ups a year. We'll provide a pancake breakfast and childcare for any and all volunteers who show up for a morning of trash pick-up and then we'll finish up with a pizza or barbecue lunch. We're hoping the first pick-up can be scheduled for a Saturday morning in late March or early April.
3. We're planning to donate Jessica's beautiful size 2 wedding gown to Brides Against Breast Cancer, an organization that fulfills wishes for metastatic breast cancer patients.
4. I've made a personal commitment, on this one-year anniversary of Jessica's death, to stop WALLOWING IN GRIEF. She'd be so mad at me if she knew that's what I've been doing! I'm still grieving and still cry nearly every day, but I've decided that Jessica would not want me moping around after a whole year, so I'd better just cut it out!
And I will ask the Lord to draw me close again. I have kept God at arm's length for a whole year and as a result, I'm HOLLOW . . . and I can't stand it anymore! It's time to start GROWING in my faith again instead of just hanging on by my fingernails. Please pray for me in this regard?
UPDATE OF MARCH 30, 2008:
I placed a call to Intermountain Donor Services a week after the anniversary of losing our Jessica to see if I might be able to get any information on the recipients of the organ and tissue donation that represented Jessica's last gifts. I'd been curious for the whole year, but not sure I could handle the information. I was hopeful that IDS might send me a letter with whatever general information they could share. I was not prepared to have all the information read to me over the phone during that call!
But here it is . . . a heartwarming compilation of lives changed for the better because of Jessica's decision to be be an organ and tissue donor . . .
Jessica's knees were both able to be transplanted, though IDS does not keep records regarding recipients of knees.
Jessica femurs, tibias, fibulas, and Achilles tendons all were able to be used, but would probably have been divided among many individuals. No records of recipients of bones and tendons are kept.
Jessica's corneas were both transplanted. One went to a 66-year-old male, restoring his sight. The second went to an 82-year-old female, restoring her sight. The utilization of Jessica's corneas was especially good news to Scott's side of the family, since his dad, Leonard, had been blessed by receiving cadaver corneal transplants many years ago. His vision was restored after months of blindness following a horrendous industrial explosion.
Two of Jessica's heart valves were harvested. One was not able utilized because a suitable recipient was not available and the "shelf life" is relatively short. The second heart valve was given to a five-year-old boy at Primary Children's Hospital. The valve will serve him for about ten years and then he will need another replacement valve, probably when he's between 15 and 20 years of age. By receiving a human heart valve, he will not need to keep returning to the hospital for frequent IV blood thinners, as he would have had to do had he received a pig valve or a synthetic valve.
When Jessica was eight years old, I received a phone call one day from the New England Organ Bank. The woman on the other end of the line was calling to tell me that they had received an organ donor card from Jessica, but that at age eight, she really was too young to legally submit the card.
Then when Jessica was diagnosed with squamous cell esophageal cancer at age fourteen, one of the questions she asked of her oncologist, Wolf Samlowski, was "Can I still be an organ donor?" Wolf suggested that it might be best to wait until after she was "cured" (five years out). Sure enough, five years later, she asked him the question again, and got the green light. Jessica made sure that all her loved ones knew her wishes. What a kid!
UPDATE OF MAY 14, 2008:
We did it!
In memory of Jessica, about 25 hard-working volunteers conducted a roadside cleanup under the auspices of the Adopt-A-Highway Program on Saturday, April 26, 2008. The day was beautiful, not too hot, not too cold, for those brave souls who showed up to work, work, work!
After a blueberry pancake breakfast at our home, the intrepid trash-pickers hit the highway. My daughters Melissa and Janelle and my friend Jan and I took turns providing care for eight children under the age of five, while the adults picked up and bagged trash along two miles of Route 138 just East of Grantsville.
When all was said and done, 49 (!) bags of trash were filled and stood like orange sentinels along the roadside. By the next afternoon, the Utah Department of Transportation had collected all 49 bags. Now we wait for UDOT to erect a blue sign that says that section of highway will be maintained by "The Friends and Family of Jessica 'Jack' Clark Tayon."
We will have another cleanup in late July and then a final one for 2008 in late September or early October.
THANK YOU TO ALL WHO CAME OUT TO HELP!!!
|UPDATE OF OCTOBER 5, 2008:
Tomorrow would be Jessica's twenty-third birthday. I visited her grave today and left an iris. Her pink granite headstone continues to be adorned in floral tributes even a year and a half after her burial. New item appear every few weeks or so. I guess that's one of the things I appreciate most about the Grantsville Cemetery . . . their policy of not removing items after a set period of time as some cemeteries do. Jessica's headstone is surrounded by silk calla lilies, roses, irises, and guarded by a miniature angel, a bunny, a deer, frogs, a solar-powered lighthouse, a stuffed moose and a teddy bear.
I hope she's having a great time in heaven! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BABY GIRL!