Thursday, February 16, 2012

A message from Christina's sister

Since a recent article was published there has been a lot of press covering Christina's death. In the process some articles have spun the information into something that it's not. My sister's death was NOT about her love life. Yes, she loved Jimmy. Yes, it was sad that she and him could not be together the way they wanted. However, her reasons for doing what she did were based off the pain and suffering she endured daily. Despite our family, her friends, and her amazing in home care staff trying to persuade her against her decision, she chose what she did. As her loved ones we chose to respect her decision, and support her the best we could in a very horrible situation. Christina got cleared by her therapist, her physician, and lawyer to carry out this decision. She was found to be of sound mind, and legally allowed to refuse treatment (through Living Will and DNR). As a family, we could do nothing, but support her. None of us wanted this for her. We all (family, friends and aides) tried our best to get her to enjoy life after her injury. However, she struggled with guilt over causing her injury, and the physical symptoms she dealt with as a result. This, is why she chose what she did.

Yes, there were mistakes on some of her distant family, STEP-Mother and Father's part that lead to a very rough recovery at first. This however does not shed the right light on the family as a whole. Her Mother and sisters (Kati, and I) tried our best to support her. Her father later mended his issues and supporter her the best he could. He visited her as much as possible. While Christina was in the nursing home I, Killeen, helped her setup accounts to help her able to move out of there and into her apartment. I also setup a trust fund to get her access to a van, that she eventually was able to buy thanks to donations made by family and friends. My mother and sister (Kati) moved in with Christina once her room mate at the time (her friend Steve) was moving out. We all who loved her TRIED our best to get her help for both physical and mental health. She was on medication for depression and anxiety for years. Please, do not think that the family, and Christina did not try our best to improve the quality of life. Yes, things were not perfect, but her love life was not the cause of her decision. Her family and friends were not the cause of her decision. She made it, and now we all have to deal with the grief, and side effects that come from that.

Please, disregard this article:

Thank you,
Killeen Snyder (sister to Christina Symanski)


  1. Very well said. I had not heard this story and somehow accidently stumbled upon the blog. She sounded like an amazing person. My husband and I were just talking about completing our Advance Directives (DNR, etc) as you never know what the next day, hour, or even minute may bring. Your sisters writings have definitely placed a huge importance of ensuring this type of requests are in place. The best to you and your family. Cindy

  2. It is obvious from Christina's writings that her decision to die was based on her quality of life. It is a very touching story, and it really made me think about right to die laws and fragility of life. I thank her for sharing her story and daily struggles. My condolences to you and your family, and may she now rest in peace.

  3. Of course I read the article: you gave me a link! But I don't think it's casts a bad light on anyone, really. I am it stings and worries you more than the average reader because it's your family, your story. I'm sure everyone did the best they could in the worst of situtations.

  4. The Daily Mail article directed me here and I am disgusted with the way the DM has chosen to tell this story. Leaving aside the DM article, I'd just like to express my condolences to your and your family. I can't imagine the anguish you're feeling now, and the anguish you all have been feeling since that fateful night in 2005. I don't think anyone has the right to be making judgments on your family, and nobody knows how they would respond in such a traumatizing situation. Christina sounded like an amazing person. I am so sorry for your loss.

  5. Killeen:

    Christina and I had a correspondence over CareCure. I recommended a book for her to read -- "A Gradual Awakening" by Stephen Levine -- which she later reviewed here.

    Here's an interview that Stephen Levine gave back in 1999, which I think offers support to Chrissy's agonized choice to end her life.

  6. Of course family wasn't to blame. I have just spent the whole day reading her blog posts. I suffer from a chronic ilness. I have not suffered like she did but I could relate how she hated having people take care of her. Once someone has made up their mind to end their life, you can't change their minds. I understand her reasoning.

  7. I am sorry for your loss..I have read your sister's blogs and nothing that I have read makes me feel that she did not love her family or blame her family. I feel that it was her choice and RIGHT to make the decisions that she did. And may she rest in peace and may you and your family know that she is at peace and is no longer suffering. May GOD bless you!

  8. Thanks for that post about your sister. I wondered if the press was spinning it to make it more dramatic than it needed to be, for the truth is hard enough as it is.

    Your story is heart-wrenching and my heart is heavy and goes out to you in your grief. My Mom took care of my Grandmother for almost 20 years in disability, and so I applaud you and your Mom for your valiant and so-long-sustained efforts for your sister. Your dedication and love during those 3 years was absolutely incredible. You two are heroines, in my book.

    I want to weep for all that Christina lost on that tragic day, her bright future with Jimmy and all that was to come for them together, but I think I'll be shedding some tears for you also, all her family, because I believe that you have lost still more. God bless.

  9. I'm paralyzed from the neck down I've been able to relate to many of the feelings Chrissy had regarding her life, although I'm very grateful that I haven't had to struggle with depression like she did. Chrissy wrote about my blog Paralyzed with Joy in a post that she entitled "Paralyzed WithOUT Joy." After that I really came to appreciate Chrissy's view on life even though we didn't agree. What I would say to the people that condemn her for what she did is that it's hard to say for sure how you would react to a certain situation until you are actually living it.

    I've been looking forward to reading Chrissy's book ever since I first heard she was working on it, so I'm glad it's finally available! I hope all of Chrissy's family and friends are coping and adjusting to life without her.

    1. Yes u r right about those who condemn her. I'm also unsure if I would be able to hold on for at least 6 yrs if I was in her shoes. It must be extremely the hardest situation from a normal person to change into a handicapped person. In fact to me, she was a very strong, yet tactful lady.

      Well, as for u, I do respect u too for being able to think so positive even in this situation... I don't know how u did that but u r amazing!

  10. Kileen,

    First I want to express my deep condolences to you and your family - Chrissy's writing absolutely captivated me and the pictures of her show such a kind sweet face. My heart just broke as I read her story. I found the blog by following a link, like many people, but I have to say that her story really is having an impact on me. I'm going through a very challenging period in my life right now, and have at points questioned the value or purpose in my life. Reading her story about how she endured for those years being paralyzed, continuing to paint and write - really give me some perspective on my life, and how absolutely blessed I am to be an able bodied person.

    I may feel 'blue', but I can take a walk outside, I can brush my own hair, dance and bake cookies. It is a gift I do not take for granted, and reading some of her posts have helped me recognize that even more.

    I absolutely understand how she came to her decision and I think she did an amazing job at describing the things that make up quality of life.

    Please do not take any unkind comments or slanted articles personally. It will be extremely challenging not to, but it seems like your sister really wanted to open up a dialogue for people on the issue of a person's right to die, so naturally, there's going to be a lot of varying and extreme opinions. But that's good news, because that's what she wanted.

    I would encourage you to either let the attorney or even a designated 'family representative' deal with any inquiries that may come from newspapers, radio, TV, etc. The publicity is good for her book, but the emotional toll it may take on you personally isn't what you want or need.

    The media will spin things any way they can for a catchy headline, etc. Even though the article you linked to was stating things that weren't true, it was impressive that the article was as long as it was - and more people will be directed to her blog and the book.

    I wish you strength as you navigate through this, and remember you are helping fulfill her dream by having her story out there for the public to read and to get them thinking.

    Patti V

  11. Killeen,

    My condolences to you and your family. I am writing this through a lot of tears.

    It sounds like Christina spent a great deal of time expressing what must have been excruciating mental and physical pain over the last six years. Her writing should become part of the canon on issues regarding patients' rights, right-to-die issues and the general discussion of what a good life is or can be.

    I'm speechless, sad, amazed. She was clearly a warm, concerned, open and loving person, hungry for a full life and not scared to discuss her reality, post-accident. I can't say I would feel any different if I were in her position. Her writings are the most honest I've ever read about dealing with extreme disability, about moving 180 degrees and never being able to turn back.

    I'll never forget this story, always keep her in my memories and she has already, like many of my good friends, become a person whose influence on my life is profound and forever.

    Mark Sutz

  12. Dear Killeen,

    What a terrible situation you, your family, friends, Jimmy & Christina have been through & now that Christina is gone, that pain continues to this day.

    Whilst reading the media article never did I think that anyone was to blame for Christina's decision to end her life.

    I can only imagine what she went thru on a daily basis (I used to be a nurse & have cared for people with such injuries) & it's a life most people would not chose to live.

    It's awful to see your loved one in pain. Knowing there is little you can do about it...even wishing you could trade places with them.

    I myself would have probably chosen to do the samething. Yes she survived her accident, she was 'alive' BUT, she was not the kind of life a young beautiful woman should lead.

    I'm sorry for your loss. Please do not for one second listen to or read people's naivety & negative comments. No one is to blame!

    Supporting her in her final weeks/days/hours/minutes is proof enough that she was VERY loved by you all.

    Please continue to remember Christina the way she was BEFORE her diving accident & all the happy times/moments AFTER.

    All the best,

    Larissa x

  13. I totally hate when people that don't know anything because they are not living it talk things that they do not know. My sister sent me the link to this blog and I am grateful because Christina's story has touched my heart in a way no one with any situation has.I put myself in her place and I would not had lasted six years because I am not that strong she tried to keep on going and was blessed with a family and friends that did there best to help her with love an care. No one knows what she felt but her and her close ones she shared her pain and her suffering with us but no one but her knew. She is resting now that was her decision and hers only and I don't blame her at all a no one should it was her life and we have to respect that's what she wanted

  14. I was puzzled that this story even appeared on the Daily Mail's website -- it's a UK paper and is well-known for its unreliable, sensationalist and bigoted coverage. I knew of Christina first when she posted on a friend's blog (the friend is a quad) who listed it among a group of other blogs by women with severe disabilities including SCI, muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy. The next I heard was that she had died, and there was a great deal of sadness expressed from other severely disabled people, like Heather who posted above, that she had taken that course of action. I was well aware that her decision was not primarily because of her relationship with Jimmy -- she stated it openly that it was to escape a disability that she found humiliating.

    Her writing reminded me a bit of Lynn Gilderdale, a British lady who died in an assisted suicide in December 2008 (she had a chronic neurological illness which had left her bedridden in a dark room for 16 years since age 14). She laid out her thoughts in a private blog post, but this unfortunately found its way into the press because a friend passed it to the police to prove that she had wanted to die as her mother had been arrested. Like Christina, her stated reasons were to escape a life of constant, terrible pain and sickness, but like Chrissy she had also experienced trauma, in this case from doctors who did not believe she was ill and were abusive to her.

    Had Chrissy heard of Lynn? I notice she started (openly) considering suicide from 2010, which is when Lynn was in the news in the UK due to her mother's trial. If you're interested, her mother Kay Gilderdale published a book titled "One Last Goodbye" last year, and she features in a documentary film about Lynn's illness called "Voices From the Shadows".

  15. Should you know of if its possible to ever buy one of christinas pieces of art please let me know.
    her writings here cut me to the bone and I felt emotions I didnt know I was capable of feeling for someone I didnt even know.testimony to her ability to write.
    I hope she has peace on the otherside.I hope we all do!
    anything worthy of being called "God" that decides to create life would have ownership of the life and would IMO be reponsible for its care in the end and reconcile everything somehow. anyways please let me know if I could buy a painting if any are left, or if there is any otherway to honor her memory somehow.


  16. So sorry for your loss. Know that you did what you could and ultimately it were her decision. She is at peace now and I'm sure that she is hoping that you will be too.

  17. I didn't even bother to read the DM article all the way through at first, instead wanting to immediately come to Christina's blog.
    I then read it from start to finish.
    Not once did anything I read match the 'She died for love' spin that the DM claimed to have been the reason for this tragic end to her life.
    Moreover, apart from the shameful actions of her father and step-mother at first, I came to the conclusion, very quickly, that the rest of the family had done there utmost best to be there for her; indeed, I was awed by how much you all helped her from the start, and over the years.

    I am sorry that the DM and its shoddy journalism caused you to have to write this post.
    When I eventually read the DM's interpretation of your sister's life, it was far from the message she had tried to convey in her blog and with her own words.

    I am sorry for your loss.
    Your sister was a trooper, that is for sure, and to make the decision she made, shows great strength and nobility.

    May she rest in peace.

  18. I would like to say thank you to all of your support and kind words. I am glad that those who didn't even know her are able to see the kind, loving, brilliant, and beautiful person she was. I hope that through her blog and book that people are able to consider how people in her position feel. It was her goal to help open up peoples minds to the kind of life people with paralysis can live.

    In response to buying her paintings- we have decided to keep the paintings in the family (and two went to Jimmy).

    1. hi Killeen

      i am contacting your from exclusivepix a London Based News agency that writes features for the woman's magazines in the UK, i came across your sisters story it is very touching, i also noticed your comment about what the Daily Mail wrote and how you where no happy with this.

      we have been approached by several woman's magazines in the UK about your story and wanted to know if you and your mum would be interested in appearing in one of the magazines giving your side to such a touching story.

      we can also arrange a fee to be paid to your charity.

      please do get in contact
      i look forward to hearing from you

      Nick York
      0044 7957 300 702

  19. I just discovered Christina's blog from a news story. I read it all. Then, I bought her book & read it in 1 setting. She reminded me so much of myself that it could've me writing her blog. She is only a year older than me & I could relate to the way she thought. I even have IBS! I am so sorry for your loss & I that I didn't have the pleasure of contacting her when she was alive. Her complete honesty and raw emotion brought me to tears. And to be honest, I probably would've made the same decision in the end. I'm not even sure I would fight for 6 years if everything I loved was take from me and I believed it was my own fault. I too would feel everyday was a punishment if I had to watch everyone else go on with their lives and dreams while I couldn't. Every marriage, birth, even year would feel like a slap in the face. I know some ppl in the same situation have a rather positive outlook on life and go on to accept their disability. I would not. I love being active. Running marathons is my passion. I could probably deal with an injury that left me in a wheelchair, but not a severe one like Christina. And the guilt. I know from her writing she would never have forgiven herself. Tragic. I do not know how I can honor her memory other then living everyday to the fullest. I promise to enjoy more, complain less, have more patience & I understanding, & I be grateful for everything I have. My condolences to your family & Jimmy. I know his heart may always be heavy. They say it's better to love & lost then to never have loved at all. I hope they are right. God bless,
    Susan, St. Louis, MO

  20. My heartfelt condolences to you and your family. One of my beloved family members also made the decision to die by not eating or drinking any more. It was very, very difficult for us (his children), but we had to honor his wishes, as they were also made with a sound mind. I understand how you feel, and what you must have gone through. You have no choice but to honor the wishes of another human do not have to explain yourselves - you did the right thing by allowing your sister to make her final decision about HER life......

  21. I read parts of this blog, crying all the while. So painful for her, I could feel her pain her absolute desire not to endure that hell a second more. She did what she needed to do, and I support her decision….her choice was not prison, but freedom. Christina is free and at peace. Please sister, I hope you, your family and friends take care and heal.

  22. I remember reading a story about, and seeing Christina's art on the Reeve site several years ago. I was drawn to the art because as an SCI (albeit high functioning now) I could relate to the the feeling of imprisonment that living in a body you can't entirely control holds. I was stunned to hear of Christina's death, but I admire the integrity of her position and her decision. I remember the outrage at the movie Million Dollar Baby in 2004 - how the character should have / could have found support and gone on to live a happy life. I very firmly remember thinking (my SCI had been in 2003), people just don't understand what living that way feels like - I think I might have made the same decision. People often believe we should choose life above all else, when medical advances have allowed us to 'live' no matter the quality of life. I beleive Christina was a brave woman to take and fight for what she believed for herself.

  23. Life is what you make of it,the positive things that can be accomplished through sincere work and duty.Don't take life for granted but embrace it and take it one step at a time and enjoy every moment of it even when things seem haywire or at a distance,just continue doing what is right because in the end it has its great rewards.