By Jeanne Sager
JEFFERSONVILLE January 8, 2002 - She had the smile of an angel, and the heart of someone beyond her years.
And if there is a heaven, 10-year-old Lauren Hughson is now up there, smiling down on the people of Jeffersonville.
Hughson died Saturday in the Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia, a facility she has come to know as a second home since Nov. 5 after a bone marrow transplant.
She is survived by her parents, Jim and Diane Hughson of Jeffersonville, her sister, Jamie, and a community that has been fighting to keep her alive.
Hughson has been on the minds of area residents since she was a tiny baby and doctors discovered a cancerous tumor on her spine.
In recent months, fund-raising efforts have sprung up at nearly every local event to help the Hughsons cover the cost of the transplant required to treat mylodisplasia syndrome, a condition which left her with an extremely low white blood cell count as well as low hemoglobin and platelets.
A child who once loved to play with her pets cats Susie, Ralph and Gizmo; birds Lady and Ruder; dogs Casey, Jack and Petey; hamster Rascal; and other animals running around at the Hughsons Swiss Hill home Lauren spent the last few months far away from home courageously battling back from her bone marrow transplant.
But through it all, the fifth grader at Sullivan West Central Schools Jeffersonville campus had a heart full of courage and compassion for others.
She taught us so many lessons, said Laurens aunt, Kathy Herbert of Jeffersonville. She was more concerned about everyone else than herself.
Herbert, who spent several nights sleeping in a chair by Laurens bedside at the Childrens Hospital to give Diane a few chances to return to Jeffersonville, recalled asking Lauren how she felt in the morning.
Id ask her, Howd you sleep? and she would say, OK, Aunt Kath, but how did you sleep? Herbert recalled. She was worried about everyone else.
When nurses would come to take care of Lauren in the evening, the child would express her concern that they hadnt eaten dinner yet, Herbert said.
Laurens father Jim recalled a time just a few weeks ago when Lauren was having an x-ray done at the hospital.
The youngster turned to the x-ray technician and said, Im sorry to make you wait.
Compassion was just her way, Jim noted.
Lauren never complained, he said. Never.
And she was such a fighter what she went through.
Jackie Smith, a clerk in the oncology wing of the Childrens Hospital, remembers Laurens compassion and her sweetness.
I have a habit of going to the children when they come in here and trying to make friends, Smith explained. I would go and speak to her every day.
Smith wasnt the only with her eye on the little girl with the smiling personality. Doctors, nurses and other health care professionals dropped in daily to visit her.
Because doctors feared Lauren could be at risk of infection by having too many visitors, Smith would simply stop by her doorway and wave.
I would stop there, and shed be smiling, Smith recalled. She would wave. . . . I just loved to see her smile. . . . How Ill miss her.
Lauren will be missed, not only by the people who spent the last several months taking care of her, but by her family, by her classmates at Sullivan West, and by the people of a community who allowed a little girl with a wide smile to sneak into their hearts.
She was really fun to be with, and she always cheered me up, recalled Claire Stabbert, a fifth grade classmate and one of Laurens best friends.
Shes as close to being an angel as they come, Jim said.