Savannah’s mom Jean had a perfectly normal pregnancy and was expecting a healthy baby, but when Savannah was born her mom thought, “Her color is dark and she isn’t crying.” Shortly after birth, her parents were told that she had some EKG abnormalities and Children’s Hospital was on the way to pick her up. At Children’s, they learned Savannah had severe congenital heart disease and were told she wouldn’t live to five. At five she had one of several surgeries after which she suffered multiple strokes which caused developmental disabilities.
Not one to be kept down, Savannah lived a very full life. She graduated from High School and got a job. She volunteered thousands of hours at the Madison County Hospital, working in the surgery unit. As a veteran of many scary surgeries, she was a comfort to those who were frightened waiting for surgery. Savannah was awarded the Jean Smith Volunteer Award in 2009 and was recognized as a “Hometown Hero” in 2012.
Despite her heart problems Savannah loved sports, especially basketball, track and field, and bowling. She was a member of the Madison County Tigers basketball team. Less than five feet tall and weighing only 88 pounds she was nicknamed “Scrappy” by her teammates for her tenacious defense and her never give up attitude. In her sassy, spunky way, she would happily go up against the biggest and strongest of players.
Eventually Savannah’s heart failed to the point that nothing more could be done and she was referred to Hospice and Palliative Care. At first, Savannah had a difficult time understanding that her heart couldn’t be fixed anymore and she had many questions about what the transition to heaven would be like. When her mom and stepdad assured her that they would meet her there someday she wanted to know how they would find her. They said they would text her, so she packed her cell phone and charger in her Vera Bradley bag along with pictures of her family, lip gloss, and other essentials.
Jean says the best part of Hospice was that they didn’t try to change Savannah. “Savannah was not always willing to follow medical advice, so her nurse explained the treatment options and then let her decide. Savannah really wanted to play basketball. She played right up to six weeks before her death, using her oxygen only when she was on the bench. Her chaplain helped to answer her questions about heaven and how she would get there. Questions answered, Savannah, age 24! was ready for heaven and actually got a little impatient waiting for the angels to come and get her.”