Erin DeVito’s father said he’s not surprised nobody knew his daughter was in pain when she excused herself to go the restroom, where she collapsed and died this week at James Madison Preparatory charter school in Tempe.
“She tried to hide it as best as she could,” Andy DeVito said Thursday from the family's home near Queen Creek.
During her lifetime, 17-year-old Erin DeVito had persevered through many medical conditions. Her dad said she was born two months early, weighing just two pounds. “She was fighting from the day she was born,” he said.
Authorities said she likely died Wednesday as a result of a pre-existing health condition. The teenager had been living with Maraphan Syndrome, a disease that affects multiple organs, including the heart.
Throughout the years, she’s also had multiple surgeries on her eyes, her spine and for a hernia.
“The decisions were do you lock her up in her room, or do you give her the opportunity to live?” Andy DeVito asked.
That’s why Andy and Tina DeVito tried to give Erin an active life, including enrolling her in James Madison Preparatory School in Tempe.
In her spare time, Erin DeVito swam, went hiking and won awards for horseback riding and ceramics, her father said.
“She always believed it was better to try and fail, than not to try at all,” said DeVito, “There were times when she’d come up and say I tried dad, but I just couldn’t get it done.”
Erin DeVito’s dad also said she had a near-death experience a couple years ago, when doctors found a grapefruit size infection in her back.
“She waited until the last minute to tell us because she could no longer tolerate the pain,” said DeVito.
Now, the 17-year-old’s family said they want her to be remembered for not only loving life, but for inspiring others.
“Always try, accept adversity and succeed,” said DeVito, “Don’t lock yourself up in a room and say I can’t do that or I wont.”
The visitation and funeral for Erin DeVito will be 5 to 7 p.m. Monday at Falconer Funeral Home in Gilbert.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to Erin’s school, James Madison Preparatory, so another student can have the same opportunities she did.