Angel tree gives hope of miracle

Published: December 1, 2006 | 5114th good news item since 2003

The angels have finally been stitched together and the harps and bows have all been carefully strung across the branches. After three months of hard work, 16-year-old Suzy Jordan’s tree is finally sparkling at Sandy’s Festival of Trees in honor of her best friend, Emily Austin.

All that’s needed now is a real angel, says Suzy, to help 13-year-old Emily recover from a recent bone marrow transplant and finally be rid of the leukemia that has dominated her life for the past eight years.

“Emily is the strongest person I know — she’s pretty much my hero,” says Suzy, a sophomore at Orem High School who wanted to get together for a Free Lunch chat to share the impact her friend has had on her life. She met Emily in a leadership class last year in junior high.

“There’s always such a positiveness and brightness about her, even though she’s had a lot to deal with in life,” says Suzy. “She’s an inspiration to everyone she meets.”

Last year, when Emily’s cancer was in remission, she helped Suzy and other leadership students decorate a red-and-white Santa tree to benefit Primary Children’s Medical Center at the annual Festival of Trees.

“It was so much fun for her — it was the first ‘normal’ year she’d had in a long time,” says Emily’s mother, Laurie. “She’s seen the inside of the hospital more than a school since she was 5.”

In August, when Suzy learned that her friend’s leukemia had returned for the third time, she knew exactly what to do to show her support.

“Emily was so excited about helping out with the festival tree last year,” she says, “that I decided to surprise her by donating a tree of my own.”

With help from her mother, Paula, who taught her how to use a sewing machine, Suzy stitched together 50 angel ornaments, complete with golden trumpets and flowing hair. She also made two angel quilts — one for whoever buys her “Always an Angel” tree at the festival and the other for Emily to snuggle with in the hospital while recovering from her bone marrow transplant.

It will take about a year before doctors know whether this week’s operation was successful. Although Emily was given only a 20 to 30 percent chance of complete recovery, “we’re praying it will be higher,” says Suzy. “Emily’s a fighter — there’s a lot that she wants to do with her life.”

Because she’ll need to spend the next two months in the hospital, Emily won’t be able to see the tree that her friend so patiently put together after school each day. “But I’m taking lots of pictures to surprise her with,” says Suzy. “I want her to know that she’ll always be an angel to me.”

Suzy’s tree has become more than just another holiday decoration to the Austin family. It’s given Emily’s family, parents, grandparents, cousins and three siblings hope for a miracle.

“That somebody would do something like this for her is so touching,” says Laurie Austin. “It’s given Emily hope that she has a chance to be a normal girl and do all the things other girls do.”

Suzy’s greatest hope is that in the years to come, she’ll be able to donate more trees to the festival, with one big difference: “The best wish of all,” she says, “is that Emily will be there with me, putting on the decorations.”

    Published in Charity, Christmas, Life
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