There are simply no words to express life’s most tragic sorrows – and nothing drives that point home more than when a bright, well-liked and happy teenager is taken too soon by forces beyond the advances of modern medicine.
In the end, a not-well-known but all-too-common blood disease, sepsis, claimed the life of Gianna Cirella, a Toll Gate High School student, soccer player, sister, daughter and friend to many.
Sepsis is diagnosed in over 800 people and claims 20 to 30 percent of those afflicted just at Kent Hospital every year, and kills about 250,000 people each year nationwide. It is caused when the body’s response to a bacterial, viral or fungal infection actually makes the infection worse, eventually causing organ failure if a treatment of antibiotics is not sufficient to stop the succession of the disease.
Billions of dollars has been spent by the government and pharmaceutical companies trying to find alternative treatments to sepsis, but none have been successful. It remains a deadly and mysterious illness.
While the emotions of Gianna Cirella’s loved ones, friends, teachers, acquaintances and even total strangers who learned of the story will run the five-step gamut – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and ultimate acceptance – the most important emotions to focus on throughout the despairing sequence of events was the love and support that emanated throughout the state in support of Gianna.
The love was seen in over $80,000 in donations raised for her medical expenses through an online campaign, and the nearly 3,000 people who followed a Facebook group dedicated to aggregating prayers and support for Gianna and her family.
That love was seen in sporting events around the state where Gianna’s name and number were featured on the scoreboards, and a plethora of purple adorned players and attendees in honor of Gianna’s favorite color. It was seen in her teammates who shuttled on buses to go see her at Hasbro Hospital, and in opposing coaches and players who offered to postpone games, knowing what turmoil the Toll Gate squad was going through.
That love was seen in Gianna’s younger sister Cassie, who netted a storybook goal against Pilgrim in a late October match while facing the uncertainty of a future which may not contain her older sibling.
It was seen in actions of total strangers, like aspiring Eagle Scout Eion Daniels who donated a purple gift bag to Gianna amongst a large donation of flashlights for the Good Night Lights program, just because he thought it would be nice for her to see that even those who didn’t know her were rooting for her.
It was especially seen in the devastatingly emotional vigil held in her honor last Friday, where friends and family poured their hearts out after their worst fears had been realized, and it was clear that Gianna – no matter how strongly she fought – was not going to emerge victorious.
In situations like this, simple words will provide no comfort initially to Gianna’s family. They have lost something they can never claim back, and they will feel a loss that pales any other for a long time. This, however, does not mean that these words shouldn’t be said.
We offer our own deepest condolences to the entire Cirella family – which, as far as we’re concerned, includes the thousands of people who rallied behind her, rooted for her, prayed for her and, in a horrible reminder of the sometimes merciless cruelty of life, ultimately lost her.
May this unspeakable loss lead to something positive, even if only increasing our collective capacity for love, generosity, empathy and kindness. May she rest in peace.