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Singing Abbey's Song Of Love

Born with severe heart defects, Abbey Skuletich had a series of major operations.

"She always thought something good was going to happen next," says Glenda Skuletich about her 8-year-old daughter. "And if she had a disappointment, that was OK because the next thing was going to be fun, too."

In 1992, Abbey was playing on an Annapolis, Md., school ground when her heart gave out.

"I got to the school and ran through the school and out the back door and onto the field and I could see her. And when I saw her, I knew. She wasn't going to make it," Glenda recalls.

Abbey was airlifted to Washington's Georgetown University Hospital, but doctors couldn't save her.

After her death, Glenda lived with the pain and the loss, trying to resume something of a routine at home and at work. Then came a turning point: a job offer that was almost too painful to consider.

Julie Andrews wanted Glenda on her staff, working as a patient advocate at the same hospital where Abbey died.

"I asked her to consider what benefit she would be to other folks," says Andrews.

Among Glenda's clients are children with life-threatening diseases and their parents.

"When I was desperate, I could talk to her, I didn't have to be afraid that I could go beyond her experience. There wasn't anywhere that I would be going that she hadn't been," says Jane Meyerhofer, mother of a cancer survivor.

"When you get the diagnosis. When you don't know what's going to happen next and then when the child is not doing well, that is the definition of terror," says Glenda.

Often, her job brings her to the very room where her daughter died.

"And I went up and spent some time in that room by myself and I knew that if someone did lose a child, that maybe I could help them in some way and let them see that, eventually, you do get up, you do get dressed, you do put your make-up on," says Glenda.

And doctors say she makes a big difference in the lives of the patients.

"She's the first person that actually I call upon when we get a new family," says Dr. Aziza Shad, chief of pediatric oncology. "Glenda has this miraculous way of making them feel comfortable. Her care continues from the beginning to the end."

In her office, Glenda keeps a collection of photos of some of the patients she's helped, including Nathan Kennedy.

Two years ago, Nathan was treated for a cancerous tumor in his leg. But his biggest worry was his parents.

"I was worried that they were having trouble handling the fact that I had cancer. Fortunately, Glenda took a little bit of my job off, trying to soothe their pain and try to relax them and calm them down to make the process easier for them," says Nathan.

"He is a miracle; he is a miracle, he truly is. They all deserve a miracle. But I'm really glad Nathan got one," says Glenda. And it is a miracle for Glenda, too, who keeps busy with her husband and their two children. That because Abbey lives on in her work.

"It's a gift for me to be a part of that. And I don't do it alone. While I'm doing it,I have Abbey, right with me," she says.

Her sister says that Glenda "sings her daughter Abbey's song every day through her love and compassion for others."

For more information and organ donations:
Washington Regional Transplant Consortium
Heather Shanks-Givens
Clinical Recovery Coordinator
8110 Gatehouse Road - Suite 101 West
Falls Church, VA. 22042
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