Staci’s Story

Leaving a Legacy: A Heart to Change

The Staci Stephens Story

As told by Staci’s Mother, Kristen

Heart to Change

People think that when they have children that they will always raise all of those children until they no longer are able. Additionally, when you meet people that you dont know, people always create casual conversation; phrases like What do you do, Where do you live, or How many Children do you have? Common questions that usually dont make anyone think twice. Well, to parent of a child lost by Myocarditis that is definitely not the case. What do you say when a child is gone? – Especially from such a silent killer that not many people are aware of – Myocarditis.

My name is Kristen Stephens and my husband and I were blessed with giving birth to two children, Staci and Kevin. Never in a million years did I ever imagine that I would not raise Staci for a long time or did I ever imagine in a million years I would be standing in the code room of the Emergency Room praying to God that he would give her breath back, let us hear her heartbeat again, or — Never in a million years did I imagine our family would have to bury our only daughter and — place a pink and white casket in the ground – all because of a virus. People get flu virus’s every day? What do you mean a virus entered her heart, caused her heart to swell, and eventually damaged her heart beyond repair? I asked. — I just couldn’t understand how this could happen.

Yes, I am living a parent’s nightmare. On Sunday, March 13th, 2005, Staci passed away quickly, suddenly, and unexpectedly from Viral Myocarditis (Coxsackie B Virus). Prior to that date, I had never heard about Myocarditis and afterwards I couldn’t find much information on the internet about it. It was hard to fathom that when I helped my daughter into the car that Sunday Morning to drive her to the ER, and I gathered plenty of reading material and things to do in the ER while I was waiting and left my husband and 12 year old son at home (along with our new 8 week old puppy named Gizmo that Staci had picked out) – that she would quietly pass away within minutes of arriving at the hospital. Staci had experienced mild flu like symptoms for the past few days such as vomiting, lethargy, and stomach problems. She went to school for a few hours on Friday and came home feeling tired. On Saturday, she attended a wedding and then I took her to a walk in clinic. They mistakenly discharged her with a stomach virus even though they had difficulty finding her vital signs and obtaining an accurate blood pressure reading. However, since I was just a mom and not a doctor, I never questioned the doctor or nurses that treated Staci. Staci was sent home with me along with a prescription for a stomach virus. Later we learned when Staci was in the walk in clinic and at the wedding, Staci was in heart failure. Since Viral Myocarditis went undetected, we were unaware our daughter had just 17 hours left to live. Eight hours of those 17, Staci was alone since viruses are very contagious especially stomach ones.

The more I researched Myocarditis and slowly found others throughout the United States stricken by this virus, did the stories sound too familiar. It seemed like people were just doing normal stuff, experiencing mild flu like symptoms but not extremely and then all of a sudden they were gone. Staci’s story wasn’t much different than the others I had heard about that suffered from Myocarditis. But why did we have to find out about this dreadful virus after she had passed away? Why did the walk in clinic completely miss her diagnosis even though it was clear she was in distress? Oh my gosh; as I was parking the car in the emergency room parking lot – my daughter was taking her last breath? She was only 16. We were shocked as were all of our family, friends, and her High School campus of 4000+ students. Staci knew everyone and everyone knew her. The kids at her school were so impacted that they held a memorial service for Staci a little more than 28 hours after she passed away and it was attended by over 800 + students, faculty, and friends. Additionally, her funeral was attended by over 1500 people that Staci had touched. We were amazed of the legacy that our daughter, Staci Stephens, left behind. Songs like “Live Like You were Dying, I Can Only Imagine, Who am I, and Homesick” brought new meaning to us.

It is my prayer that the Myocarditis Foundation’s vision is accomplished sooner rather than later. Knowledge Nurtures Hope. Because of the Myocarditis foundation, I have hope. Hope for others. Hope that this horrible virus will be stopped. Back when Staci first passed away, it was very difficult to find any information about Myocarditis. Shortly after Staci passed away, Candace found our web site and told me about her vision for the foundation. Today, the foundation’s vision is to increase awareness and award grants to help guarantee that new and innovative research avenues are thoroughly funded and explored. Knowledge nurtures Hope. We all need hope.

Staci Aleece Stephens was a devout Christian, and was a determined young woman who wanted to help others. Staci was a 16 year old active sophomore who loved bible studies, Jesus Christ, cheerleading, excelled at Timber Creek High School, ran track, babysat, and was an honor student. She loved working with the freshman cheerleaders, led a Bible-study group before and after school, and loved babysitting. Staci was involved in Student Venture Youth Ministry programs and was actively pursuing being part of the High School’s Christian Servant Team. During middle school, Staci was involved in band playing the clarinet, and Jazz Band playing the saxophone, was a certified diver, and earned her second degree black belt by the time she was 14 years old.

Staci was re-born when she was 15 and re-baptized on her 16th birthday. Staci woke up every morning at 5:30 AM and spent alone time with God. In doing this, she left behind four journals of her faith. Some of the inspiring things she taught us included asking God for a ‘one-of-a-kind ministry’ not a copy of anyone else’s. Staci developed a big heart for God and a big heart for people. She said, ‘Everything I do is for the glory of God and I finally know the life that I’ve been missing.’ Staci also shared, ‘I knew that he loved me and that he was there, but I didn’t know that it was to this extent that it could really impact your life. I think the most important thing I’ve learned was how to really live my life and what I’m living for. A lot of kids know that they are not living the right way and if they will say something about it, you know they have ‘A Heart to Change.’ This quote inspired Student Venture (Venture Media) to create the short DVD titled, ‘A Heart to Change, The Staci Stephens Story’ produced by Campus Crusade for Christ. The DVD is shared throughout the world and hundreds of emails are received monthly. (www.stacistory.com).

Additionally, her family has started ‘The Staci Stephens Fund, Inc.’ a 501(c)3 Non Profit Organization. The organization’s mission is to help people attend Christian camps, conferences, workshops or other related functions to further their faith, to assist with medical research of Viral Myocarditis and other heart related problems, and help others afflicted with heart related issues. To date, we have provided over 60 + scholarships to people with an estimated total of over $12,000 – all donations in memory of a beautiful girl with an amazing legacy and a heart for Jesus.

Some of the ways that we honor Staci are by providing monetary donations to others in order to further their faith; share Staci’s story world-wide, and donations to Myocarditis research. We mail DVDs to various places and have sent many out of the country. If anyone is having difficulty with their faith, we want to provide funds so they can experience the joy Staci knew – the Jesus Staci experienced. In the future, some of the things we plan to do are publish her journals, write some books, and we would love to do a TV series. Of course, all of these things are in conjunction with the current organization’s mission and availability of funds.

I would like to share with you one of Staci’s most memorable prayers from her journal:

Lord, I want to have my own ministry, not a copy of anybody else’s Lord. I know that’s going to happen Father and I pray that you just give me strength to do so and time as well Lord. I pray for the future of your ministry while using me Lord. Let me run for you, let me cheer for you, let me sing for you and let me dance for you God. I want it to be for you and nobody else Lord. You hear me, you see me, you feel me Lord and you answer me. God that’s so awesome. Lord I love you as much as I can, and I pray I can love you more. It’s in your precious and holy name I pray, Amen.

You can read more about Staci, viral Myocarditis, and her legacy at www.stacistephens.com – The Staci Stephens Fund, Inc. We are also on Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, you can email me at stacistorymom@yahoo.com. I will share Stacis story with anyone who will listen forever.