A Lowcountry Classic
Rainbows and motherhood...among God's greatest gifts, they stimulate happiness, imagination, and creativity. As rainbows are everlasting, a mother's relationship with her child is indestructible.
Lovely Judy Trew sees rainbows-lots of them, and there is significant meaning to her in their beauty. Judy was considering medical school after a 10-year career in medical technology at the University of Kentucky when an old friend living on Hilton Head offered her a real estate opportunity in 1981. She decided to try it-an important move, as across the street lived an attractive young man, matching her high energy.
"Our dogs-Bud, my cocker spaniel, and Titian, Dwight's lab-introduced us," laughed Judy. The magic began when Dwight Trew knocked on Judy's door looking for his dog. By 1986, Bud and Titian had done their job and Judy and Dwight married. The arrival of two beautiful little girls, Heather and Taylor, completed their family. The girls attended Montessori School and thrived. Heather loved to sing and wanted to be an entertainer. Taylor became interested in volleyball and also developed an amazing artistic ability. Life was good for the Trew family.
"Then a picnic changed our lives forever," recalled Judy. Seven-year-old Heather was rushed to the hospital suffering from e-coli poisoning from one bite of an undercooked hamburger. Her grave condition led to a speedy transport to Medical University of South Carolina where she underwent surgery to save her life, yet her condition deteriorated. She was placed on dialysis, her brain function slowed and pneumonia developed. Seven weeks later, after many prayers for a miracle, Heather was strong enough to return home. She continued 11 hours a day on a dialysis machine in her once joyful pink bedroom. "We knew she would eventually need a kidney transplant, and we worked hard to renew her health and prepare for the inevitable," said Judy.
From age seven to 20, Heather struggled with life-threatening episodes. "We had to hold on to the big picture and our faith. Going to Taylor's volleyball games was great," recalled Dwight. "It was something normal!"
With her love of music, it was no surprise that Heather's "make a wish trip" for her 12th birthday was to see the Backstreet Boys in concert. They were performing in London, and the trip was planned, but Heather's health declined again. "We found a clinic in Switzerland and, after a few weeks of treatment, Heather greatly improved," said Judy. Not too far from Austria, mother and daughter visited the Swarovski Crystal Co, where Heather gathered crystals for creating jewelry.
Her health stabilized, and her wish was realized. She not only saw the Backstreet Boys in concert, but also met them backstage. "It was clearly one of the happiest days of her life!" said Judy. "They were a strong inspiration to her, and Heather announced her desire to become a 'star' so she could sing for children suffering in hospitals. Understanding their agony, she planned to deliver a message of faith, hope, the power of prayer and never giving up."
The kidney transplant was imminent and the closest match was Heather's Aunt, Christina Perkins who, on her 50th birthday, lovingly gave her 13-year-old niece the gift of life. Rejections and many years of turmoil followed. "We never knew when something might happen," said Judy. Yet, this courageous mother unfolded her arms and allowed her child to build a life. Heather became a cheerleader and participated in pageants to forward her singing career. Contacted by John Robert Powers Talent Agency for an audition, she was offered a contract. Sadly, during a cheerleading practice, Heather broke her back and her life fell apart once again.
To counter the years of pain, she designed jewelry with her beloved Swarovski crystals. Her signature piece, the angel bracelet, is a collage of crystals, finished with an angel clasp, symbolizing her guardian angels.
At age 19, Heather suffered another serious kidney rejection, and a blood clot formed in her leg. She was not allowed to fly, so her parents visited regularly in Mississippi where she had moved. When she was finally able to fly, her 20th birthday celebration to Hawaii was planned. Heather's wish to swim with the dolphins was arranged, along with many other family activities. She stayed an extra day, spending long hours with her family and the cocker spaniels she loved so much.
Just two days later, a call sent the Trews rushing to Heather's hospital bedside. In tremendous pain, it was discovered she had developed pancreatitis. The family spent the afternoon together before Heather slipped into a coma and was lifted from her parents' arms into God's kingdom. On the flight home for Heather's service, it rained. Suddenly, the Trews were dazzled by not one, but multiple rainbows. The pilot, a 30-year veteran, said he had never seen anything like it.
The Trews say their faith in God kept them going. "We continue our goal of savoring our family, holding close. We do as much as possible together," said Dwight. "We are so proud of Taylor and all her accomplishments. She attended the Pratt Arts Institute in NY and is enjoying being the longest member in attendance of the Low Country Volley Ball Club, which will go to the July finals in Miami. She received a standing ovation for her senior speech about her sister and will begin Emory this fall."
Due to the hundreds of contributions in Heather's memory, The Heather Trew Foundation was founded to fund research at MUSC. The Web site, theheathertrewfoundation.com, supports Heather's wish: organ donations to save lives. Heather handed out information cards wherever she went, and many, as a reminder of the importance of organ donation, wear her beautiful angel bracelet.
"I know now why Heather was born with such a strong spirit," said Judy. "She needed all her strength to survive crisis after crisis in her life."
"We know Heather is in a better place, free of pain and well again," added Dwight.
After the storms, there are rainbows. For the Trews, they signify Heather touching their lives again.