By: Tammy Andrews
July 11, 2015….a day that will bear no significance to many, but to those who knew Kara Hay, it will forever be etched in their memory as the five year anniversary date a radiant princess went back home to live eternally with her King. And while their hearts may still be saddened from missing this lovely young woman, they are comforted by the fact that she walks among angels in a body made whole again, free from disease, hospitals, and sickness that plagued her most of her Earthly journey.
This may sound like the beginning to a very sad story to those who never knew Kara, but to those who did, they know it is anything but that. It is a story of a courageous young warrior who fought battles wearing a sweet smile and left behind a legacy of triumph, inspiration and hope. This is Kara’s story as told by the woman who knew her best.
From the moment that beautiful little girl was laid in her arms on New Year’s Day, 1990, Karen’s heart swelled with love and pride as she gazed down at the blonde-headed cherub snuggled sweetly up to her. God had made her a mother, one of the finest titles he could bestow on her and she promised Him right then and there that she would do everything in her power for this little girl. Little did she know how quickly the battles would begin…
At just 11 weeks of age, when Kara began experiencing symptoms such as projectile vomiting and failure to thrive, Dr.’s ordered a sweat test which confirmed their fears. When Kara as diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at 13 weeks, and so her journey as a CF child began…
Since Kara was diagnosed with CF as an infant, she never knew anything but doctor visits and hospital stays. But this did little to daunt her sunny disposition, which made her a doctor’s favorite. She formed a lifelong relationship with one Dr. Sellers, whom she referred to as her “best buddy”.
One of the biggest influences on Kara’s life was her relationship with her Lord and Savior. She accepted Jesus Christ into her heart at the tender age of six years old and her faith never wavered throughout her Earthly journey. She could quote Bible scriptures before she could fairy tale rhymes. One of her favorites was Isiah 53:5 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
Kara refused to let her condition define her in life and she worked very hard to make sure that no one ever saw her sick or suffering. No matter what was going on with her, her focus was always on others. She was selfless and giving, which earned her lots of friends, as well respect from her peers.
Kara grew into a striking beauty with a dazzling smile that would melt your heat. With her charismatic personality, her witty banter and a real zest for life, people were drawn to her. And always, always a winning attitude regardless of what she faced.
Because she was missed so much school due to hospital stays, she was placed under the IDEA program, where she had teachers sent out to her home. Kara thrived in her schoolwork and finished within the top 10 of her class. After graduating from Lineville High School, she registered for classes at CACC, where she majored in graphic design, a long-time passion of hers. Kara had originally wanted to be a Registered Nurse, but because of her fragile condition, that was not an option. She was self-motivated and worked hard in all of her classes, despite her medical needs, which was a daily struggle.
CF is a grueling disease, which takes its toll over the body over a long period of time. Kara underwent multiple sinuses surgeries for polyps, had to wear an insulin pump for diabetes, had to take calcium shots every night, and numerous hospital stays. Towards the end, she had to have a feeding tube inserted and was taking almost 60 pills a day.
She went on the list in April 2010 for a double lung transplant, but her pulmonary functions had already begun deteriorating by that point after a bout with H1N1 virus and she was never able to recover. But she never lost her fight and people were shocked when she passed away because she made a point to never let anyone see her suffer. In fact, her final thoughts were of others, mostly her mother. It was very important to Kara that her mother was doing okay and she would ask her frequently.
On the last ambulance ride, Kara looked at her mother and said “Mama, I’m in to win it, whether I’m in Heaven or not. I’m still going to win.”
During her last hospital stay on July 6th, Kara crashed, but after some time, they were able to revive her. Karen said after the crash, she had a little talk with God and told him that she was done and she was turning it over to Him for His will to be done. It was then that she felt an inner peace wash over her.
Kara’s last four days was spent with Karen by her side and she was able to have deep conversations with her daughter before her passing, another thing she feels so blessed over.
Sunday morning, July 11, 2010 dawned like just any other day. Karen was in the room with Kara during the last minutes of her life and much life her sweet daughter’s birth, was in awe of her surroundings. “You could just feel Jesus in the room. She was conscious the entire time, right up until the moment she passed. When reached her hand up in the air and I caught it, and I felt the life slip right out of her body. It was amazing.”
Kara was 20 years, six months and 10 days old when she passed. “I feel blessed to have gotten those 20.5 years with Kara, although I wish I would have had more”, says Karen.
Kara’s Memorial Service was a Celebration of her life in which all of her family and friends were asked to wear pink, Kara’s favorite color. The service was overseen by Karen with a multitude of family and friends sharing their fondest memories of Kara. There may have been a little tears mixed in with the laughter, but it seemed a fitting tribute to the girl who was once filled with so much life that she never wanted anyone to be sad.
The scripture that summed up Kara’s life appeared on her headstone from II Timothy 4:7, scripture on her headstone “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Very few words, yet so powerful if you knew her story.
The countless lives touched by Kara Hay are probably too many to name. Many who never even knew her were also touched by her story, even now after five years since her passing which never seems to amaze Karen.
Her “In it to win it” saying resulted in a Kara Hay Memorial 5K Walk/Run held every year in October, where all the proceeds to towards the Kara Hay Scholarship Fund awarded to selected students.
Karen’s nephew wrote a song about Kara after she passed called ”Free to Breathe”, which can be found on Itunes for just 99 cents. All proceeds from this song’s purchase goes toward the CF Foundation. Another song was written from a poem Karen wrote about her daughter called “Unexplainable Peace”.
Does she miss her daughter? Most certainly…
“She was my best friend; my hair dresser, my patient, my student, my counselor, and most of all, my rock. When I was at my lowest, she was always there pulling me up”, says Karen, “Because of the life that I have led with my daughter, it has made me into the person I am and given me a purpose. I have fought for Kara in every aspect of her life; medically and in the educational field. She is the reason I want to become an advocate for the children. That’s just part of the legacy she leaves behind.”