Family donates house to Shands in memory of their daughter

Published: November 8th, 2011

Category: Announcements

Elissa Schee has a large tattoo on her chest of her daughter’s face. It’s a mother’s way of letting the world know how much joy her daughter, Margay, brought to her world. It’s a way for a mother to tell the world she will never forget the wonderful 13 years Margay was alive. And through Margay, the Schee family is honoring Shands with a significant donation that will help hundreds of patients.

“There was something truly angelic about her,” says Elissa, as tears well in her eyes. “Nothing compares to the pain of losing your child, nothing.”

The Schee family has seen tragedy a number of times. James Schee, Elissa’s husband and Margay’s father, nearly died after suffering a severe heart attack in the fall of 2007. The effects of his heart attack were so severe that he suffered brain damage due to lack of oxygen to his brain.

As Elissa explains, he had to relearn everything – his ABCs, colors, how to get dressed, brush his teeth, etc.

Eventually, James’ caregivers said it was OK for him to return home. It was then the job of everyone in the family to try and help him relearn the simplest of tasks.

“Margay was a huge part of his rehab,” Elissa says. “She would help him comb his hair. She showed him how to put tooth paste on his tooth brush. She did so much.”

Elissa then pauses and starts to cry and then laugh.

“There was this one time when James was getting dressed while Margay was helping, and he was trying to put his pants on his head,” Elissa says. “Margay helped him do it the right way, but then she ran out to the kitchen where I was and she told me, ‘Mommy, daddy was putting his pants on his head.’ She was laughing so hard, we both were. In tough times like that, you have to find the humor in things. We didn’t laugh in front of him, of course.”

Thankfully for the Schees, James’ recovery was swift. James, who has been a patient at Shands since 2007, still suffers from a limited short-term memory, but most everything else has returned mentally. It was his heart that still needed care, and it was James’ and Elissa’s heart that was shattered about a year after his heart attack.

On Sept. 23, 2008, Margay’s school bus was struck in the rear by a semi truck on the way home from school. Margay was the only one who died in the firey crash.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Elissa says. “My baby was gone. You can’t explain how that feels to someone.”

Elissa remembers the last thing she told her daughter. It was the morning before school and her daughter was in the kitchen.

“Remember to load the dishwasher,” says Elissa, pausing as she catches her breath and dries tears. “And I could tell she was starting to do it. And then I said, ‘I love you.’ That’s the last thing I ever told her.”

The Schees know that they will never fully heal from the loss of their daughter, but they did receive good news about James. On Oct. 13, 2010, he received a heart transplant at Shands after being on the donor list for just 48 hours. The heart appears to be a perfect match and James is recovering ahead of schedule.

Now, the Schees say it is time to heal others. They have donated the house they lived in for 10 years in Citra to Shands. It is the home Margay, who was born at Shands, grew up in.

The gift will go specifically to help fund cardiac nurse training and a children’s burn unit camp.

“We are doing this because Margay would have wanted it that way,” says James, whose family now lives in St. Augustine. “We wouldn’t have done this if it wasn’t for Margay. Margay is helping these people.”

House donation in honor of daughter

James and Elissa Schees touching donation will help fund cardiac nurse training and a children's burn unit camp.