The family of a 20-year-old South Kitsap woman who died last month remembers her as a shy, but happy person who also wanted to make others around her cheerful.
Tacey Patterson died Sept. 29 at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle from complications from viral meningitis.
More than 250 people attended a celebration of life service for Tacey on Oct. 5 at the Port Orchard Eagles Hall.
“There were lots of people at the memorial,” said Victoria Patterson, Tacey’s stepmother. “It didn’t matter if you spent 10 minutes with her or years, she was just so kind and generous that people fell in love with her. Since she was always happy, we tried to make it a happy and uplifting thing. That what she tried to do is make everyone happy.”
Her father, Jerrett, remembers his daughter’s conviction to her beliefs.
“She was an independent young lady,” he said during an interview Tuesday morning. “She believed in being a registered voter and couldn’t wait until she turned 18.”
Jerrett said his daughter loved spending time with family and friends, along with being outdoors. She also loved fishing and camping.
Tacey was born April 22, 1993, in Bremerton and graduated from South Kitsap High School in 2011.
She was also one of six contestants who completed for the 2013 Fathoms o’ Fun Royal Court pageant in March.
Victoria said Tacey was a shy and reserved person around most people, but when she got involved in the Fathoms o’ Fun pageant, it helped her.
“She started to open up a little bit,” she said.
At the time of her death, Tacey was a shift manager at Dairy Queen in Silverdale and was attending Olympic College. She planned to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing and work as a travel nurse. Tacey eventually planned to pursue a master’s degree to become a nurse practitioner.
“I really want to be a nurse, because it is a job that will enable me to help others everyday. I believe that, in that field, I will learn something new each day,” Tacey said during her pageant competition.
“She worked at Dairy Queen for about a year and a half and was putting herself through college,” Victoria said. “She wanted to be a nurse because she wanted to help people.”
Tacey became ill early last month after complaining about headaches. She went to the doctors at Harrison Medical Center and they gave her medications for a sinus inflection, which seemed to make her headaches better.
“But then she started to get sicker and we took her to the emergency room on Friday (Sept. 25),” Victoria said.
Doctors performed a MRI and spinal tap on Tacey and discovered she had viral meningitis, which caused swelling around the brain. They sent Tacey home with medications for pain and swelling.
Later that night, Tacey was taken back to the emergency room and readmitted to the hospital.
The following day, Saturday, Tacey seemed to improve, but was tired, according to Victoria.
“She complained of a headache and doctors gave her medicine to help her rest,” she said. “They don’t know what causes the virus and the only treatments they had was for shingles and for herpes. They gave them to her to see if it would help.”
Victoria said the doctors told the family there was only a 14 percent chance of someone not surviving viral meningitis and it could take up to 10 weeks to recover from the virus.
Tacey’s final day
On the way to the hospital Sunday morning, Tacey’s family was notified that she had stopped breathing and her heart rate had increased. Tacey was incubated by the hospital staff and taken to ICU.
Doctors examined a CAT scan taken after Tacey stopped breathing and compared it to an MRI taken two days earlier.
“They found a great deal of increased swelling that was putting pressure on her brain stem that caused irregular heartbeat and complications from breathing,” Victoria said.
Tacey was then airlifted to Harborview Medical Center to perform surgery that would relieve pressure on her brain. Her family arrived at Harborview about 15 minutes after the helicopter arrived.
The family was taken into a room for doctors to explain Tacey’s situation.
Victoria said Harborview doctors told the family bodies fight off viruses differently and the virus had attacked Tacey’s brain and there were no brain functions.
According to state law, Tacey was “brain dead” and they would run tests during the next nine hours before she would be considered deceased.
“Other than a miracle, she wasn’t going to pull through,” Victoria said.
Doctors kept Tacey on a ventilator until her biological mother, Rachel Patterson, could arrive at the hospital from New Plymouth, Idaho, and say her final goodbye.
She also was an organ donor.
Jerrett said his daughter was on the same floor at Harrison where she was born and airlifted from.
She is survived by her parents; stepmother, two sisters, Alyssa and Aiayna; and a brother, Riley, along with many aunts, uncles and cousins.
An online memorial is available at www.rill.com.
Sharing her memory
Tacey’s family is looking into starting a non-profit in her memory that will continue to spread kindness in her name. A Facebook page for the group can be found at www.facebook.com/TaceysThoughtfulTeam.
Her father said Tacey would want to be remembered as someone who wanted others do well.
“She would do anything for anybody,” he said. “If she was here now, she would tell them she had a higher purpose and she’s going to do good somewhere else.”