Child helped others in life, and death - East Valley Tribune: News

Child helped others in life, and death

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Posted: Sunday, September 13, 2009 12:12 am | Updated: 1:25 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

As a 5-year-old San Tan Valley girl lay in the hospital on life support after she was pulled from a backyard pool, her parents made the agonizing decision to donate her organs.

Rachel Allen liked to help.

The 5-year-old San Tan Valley girl's helpful manner began before she was big enough to be of any real assistance, but as she grew she always lent a hand in dressing her younger siblings, cleaning their rooms or almost anything else that needed to be done.

Rachel's giving didn't end, however, when doctors declared her brain-dead Aug. 23, the day after she was pulled from a backyard pool.

As she lay in the hospital on life support, her parents made the agonizing decision to donate her organs.

"We miss Rachel unbearably, but we have been so awed and grateful that Rachel could help others with her passing," Ben and Anya Allen wrote in an e-mail.

The Allens declined to be interviewed for this story, but they passed along a 1,476-word tribute to their daughter.

They said the girl loved to play outdoors and help her dad feed their horses and chickens and she loved to pore over her books and puzzles, including one called "Inside Your Outside," which her mom got for her because of a fascination with how the human body works.

She also loved the water, and she could dog paddle.

"We had never allowed the kids to play in the backyard - much less by the pool - without us there to keep a close eye on them; so imagine our horror when on August 22nd, we found both our two-year-old son and our five-year-old daughter, Rachel, facedown in the pool," the Allens wrote.

According to the Pinal County Sheriff's Office, the family was preparing to move into the home in the Castlegate subdivision and was doing home repairs.

Lt. Tamatha Villar, sheriff's spokeswoman, said Ben Allen had been outside with the kids and went back inside, believing they had followed.

"In a matter of moments he realized they weren't inside," Villar said.

The Allens said they jumped in the water simultaneously and pulled their children out to begin CPR.

"Our son revived within a minute, maybe even within thirty seconds," the Allens wrote.

So what happened?

Did both children fall in? Could Rachel have jumped in to save her 2-year-old brother after he fell in? "Those are questions we'll never know the answer to," Villar said. "It's one of those cases where we'd like to know."

Rachel had no pulse and wasn't revived until she got to the emergency room of Maricopa County Medical Center.

Her doctor informed the parents that Rachel suffered extensive brain damage because her brain had gone without oxygen for too long.

"We struggled with the difficult and painful decision to donate her organs, but we both felt sure that Rachel wanted to help other people," the Allens wrote.

Rosalinda Lemieux of Donor Network of Arizona, the state's organ procurement organization, said one of the considerations of a family going through the emotional turmoil of donating their loved one's organs is whether there is an emotional benefit.

"What we explain to them is if they do embrace donation, what they will find is peace, comfort knowing that they've honored their loved one in this way - meaning they've given a second chance at life for other people," Lemieux said.

A person is considered brain-dead when there is no activity in the brain or blood flow to it.

Organs are recovered within 12 to 36 hours of consent, 24 hours on average.

Lemieux said the first eight hours are spent improving the health of the organs. The second eight are used for notifying transplant centers and finding a recipient, and the last eight are for coordinating surgeons and the surgery.

"A lot of people don't know what's going on behind the scenes, but I think people appreciate having that extra time with their loved ones," said Lemieux, who works with families during that critical period.

The Allens said that to their knowledge, Rachel's donations have been successful.

A fund has been set up to help the family with hospital expenses. To donate you can go to either www.amymorby.com/ourangel_rachelallen or deposit a check at Desert Schools Federal Credit Union into the Rachel Allen Memorial Fund, account number 3000014923.

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