A mother in Iowa is sharing powerful footage of her 1-year-old daughter, who had been declared brain dead after contracting a virus, getting wheeled into organ donation surgery in an effort to stress the importance of the gift of life.
Last month, Coralynn “Cora” Sobolik’s final moments were spent being honored by her parents Meagan and Paul Sobolik, as well as the medical staff at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Rochester.
In the emotional video shared on YouTube, nurses and doctors lined the hospital hallways and sang “Amazing Grace” as Cora was pushed toward the surgical unit, with her parents by her side.
“The staff at Mayo was more than any family could ask for,” Meagan tells PEOPLE of the heartbreaking moment. “I was speechless, and it was truly wonderful to see and feel so much love and support for our little girl.”
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Just one day earlier, doctors had declared the 1-year-old to be brain dead after a five-day battle with parainfluenza complications.
Meagan and Paul first brought their baby girl to the hospital at Cresco Medical on Friday, April 19, where Cora showed signs that she was having difficulty breathing, according to the GoFundMe page created by Cora’s aunt Melissa Brevig.
Because of her condition, Brevig said doctors decided to transfer Cora to Mayo Clinic Hospital in Rochester, but in order to do so successfully, they needed to sedate and intubate her.
It was during that procedure that Cora’s heart stopped, prompting the medical staff to perform CPR on the baby for nearly 25 minutes, while Meagan, Paul and Cora’s grandma watched on.
After finally stabilizing her, Cora was transferred to Mayo Clinic Hospital and had arrived by 4 p.m. on Friday.
The first update from doctors said that Cora’s heart and echocardiogram were performing well. But things quickly took a turn for the worst when doctors took Cora for a CAT scan and discovered she had brain damage.
Though they were all optimistic that the little girl might wake up — knowing that she would have a “different life” than before — things progressively got worse and Cora’s brain started to swell.
In a moment that no parent should have to experience, Meagan and Paul were told that their daughter was brain dead at 4:45 p.m. on Sunday, April 21.
“I dropped to my knees and cried and kept saying, ‘No, no, no, God, no,'” Meagan recalls. “I then felt numb and felt empty.”
After processing the loss, the couple decided to do something that would ensure that Cora’s legacy would live on forever: donate her organs to people who desperately needed them.
“When we knew that she wasn’t ever going to wake and that she was gone mentally, we knew that she would want her organs to help people in need,” Meagan explains, noting that she decided to record the moment Cora went into organ donation surgery for their loved ones who could not be there.
The emotional video, which was recorded by Mayo Clinic Hospital’s chaplain, was eventually shared on social media, where it went on to touch millions of people around the world.
Though it has been difficult to rewatch, Meagan says every time she and Paul do, they know Cora “is watching it with us in spirit” and it reminds them of the “amazing” hospital staff who went out of their way to say a proper goodbye to their baby.
“The doctor that took care of her came in on his day off to the be the first in line and also the last one to be with us when they shut the elevator doors to take her to surgery,” Meagan explains. “The nursing staff was amazing to us … They gave us so much comfort and support while we were there, it was amazing.”
“It also adds comfort to me to see [Cora] again and confirm what we did was the right thing to do,” Meagan adds of rewatching the video.
Cora, too, has since touched millions of lives with her story, especially three in particular — a 1-year-old boy who received her heart, a 1-year-old girl who received her liver and a 41-year-old woman who received her kidneys.
“She is going to be living on within three different people,” Meagan says of her daughter, who would have been 2 in July. “She isn’t really gone, she lives on in her legacy.”
Now, as Meagan and Paul continue to grieve the loss of their “superhero” little girl, who “loved bubbles and being outside with her brother and sister,” they hope her story will encourage others to consider being an organ donor.
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“When your child donates their organs, they live on in someone else [and] they are saving people that otherwise [might] not be saved without your child’s gifts,” Meagan explains.
“Our daughter was absolutely the world to us. She was such a happy little girl and always laughing — her laugh was infectious,” she continues. “Cora is our little superhero, and I believe is becoming an inspiration for millions of people and also helping to raise awareness for organ donation all over the world.”
“We love her and miss her every day and always will,” Meagan adds, “but like I said, she lives on in the three people she saved.”
For those interested in becoming an organ donor and giving the gift of life, visit Donate Life America.