Friday, February 29, 2008

Free Press Story

Family shared grieving on Internet
Ill daughter's final moment observed across world

By: Kevin Rollason
Updated: February 29 at 02:00 AM CST

An East St. Paul woman's life began in a bubble and ended on the Internet.
Renee Dueck, 23, may have been born with the same lack of immune system that caused American David Vetter to spend most of his life as "The Boy In The Bubble," but it was her four-month battle to survive her latest bout with leukemia that she ultimately lost on Tuesday night in a New York City hospital room.

Prayers poured in as blogs kept a record of Renee Dueck's final struggle, and a video of the city woman's last moment has been posted on the Internet in what a counsellor describes as a positive way to mourn.

But you didn't need to be in the hospital to witness the moving experience of her passing. Anyone with a computer and Internet link can join with family, friends and supporters to see a comatose Renee in her hospital bed while her brother, Justin, accompanied by a music therapist on the guitar, sings Amazing Grace.
"She was comatose, but we believe she knew," Dueck's father, Raymond, said during a telephone interview from New York City.
"She knows what was happening when she went over."
Raymond said he, his daughter, and his wife all set up separate websites to keep people informed about her progress and to get support.
Raymond, who on Thursday night was preparing to return to Manitoba with his wife, Martha, said the video is just one of numerous videos, photos, e-mails, and other thoughts his daughter's family, friends and acquaintances put on the web.
"There's tons of information out there on our blogs," he said.
"We had 800 to 900 people on the e-mail list and each e-mail they sent was posted. (Renee) had a map on her blog and it showed people were sending e-mails from around the world."
Jody Nicholson, vice-president of the Manitoba Funeral Service Association and a funeral director and manager at Glen Lawn Funeral Home, said more people are using the Internet to help them grieve.
"On occasion there have been demands for the funeral services to be webcast," Nicholson said.
"In our global age, families are halfway around the world and unable to get home, but they still want to take part. And in the last three years or so we have posted obituaries on the Internet and families and people share their stories with family.
"It's definitely a different world... in the old days we never would have imagined things like this."
Carmen Nembhardp, a social worker who has done grief counselling, said the way the family has used the Internet is positive.
"With grief, you have to work through a process," Nembhardp said.
"They're doing stuff to help other people because it helps with closure. When the novelty of going on the Internet fades, they should put it in print because this can help other people with grief therapy."
During the months filled with good times -- and not-so-good times -- Renee, her dad and her mother kept their separate websites up to date.
In fact, in what turned out to be his daughter's last few hours, Raymond kept updating his website ( ) to let people know what was happening.
"Pray for Renee's stabilized blood pressure, breathing as she should, lungs to work, heart to keep pumping, infection to go away -- 8:23 a.m."
"I had my PDA with me and I just wrote stuff and e-mailed it to the blog," he said.
"The hospital here is very progressive and they don't mind cellphones being on."
Dueck -- like three of her four siblings -- was born with severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), the same disease that affected Vetter.
Dueck was predeceased by her two older siblings, but she survived after receiving a bone marrow transplant from her mother in New York City shortly after she was born. One sister was born with it and was also given a stem cell transplant from her mother while another sister doesn't have it. She is also survived by a brother.
She went to school in Riverton -- her father owns Vidir Machine -- and after graduation she joined Youth With a Mission, a Christian mission organization. She later took a film production course at Capilano College in Vancouver.
Dueck fought her cancer at the same hospital she was brought to when she was four months old.
Raymond said after their first two children died of SCID, and while his wife was pregnant with Renee, they read a story in Reader's Digest about a treatment for it at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
"The doctors always told us less there was less than a 25 per cent chance of our children getting (SCID) but out of five births only one of our children (doesn't) have it.
"But (after Renee's treatment) she was a very healthy kid -- always the healthiest on the block," he said.
Since October, the family has lived in a $4,500-per-month New York apartment to be close to her.
Her father hopes her website helps her memory -- and writings and opinions -- live on.
"She wrote there should be more prophets in society," he said.
"She has written all kinds of plays and drama productions. She wanted to be in the Christian film industry.
Dueck's funeral is on Sunday in Riverton.
The family is asking for donations to go to support the work of Renee's favourite organization at

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