Tori Schmanski, an Orem teen whose story was followed by thousands on a Web site created by her father after she suffered brain damage, died Saturday at her home.
She was 19.
On Father's Day 2005, Schmanski spent 20 minutes under water after the car she was in crashed into a canal. While her sister Whitney and two cousins were able to swim out, Schmanski was trapped in the backseat.
The teen's injuries were debilitating, leaving her unable to speak or eat. She communicated by turning her thumbs up or down.
Believing she might benefit from injections of adult stem cells, her parents, Tim and Maria, took Schmanski to the Beike Biotechnology Company's stem cell clinic in Hangzhou, China, in January 2007.
The family paid $20,000 for five injections of 50 million adult stem cells into Tori's spinal cord fluid, as well as physical therapy and acupuncture. Tim Schmanski, an avid proponent of embryonic stem cell research in the U.S., chronicled his family's experience on http://Pray4Tori.com" Target="_BLANK">http://Pray4Tori.com.
"If we were 20 years in the future right now, I think Tori would have had a lot more help on that front. We were just too early," he said Tuesday.
The community rallied around the Schmanski family. One Utah company, For Every Body, sold "Tori's Candles" for $14 each, the proceeds from which went to the family to help pay for her care. The owner was inspired by the teen's story after reading about her online.
Schmanski was relatively healthy over the last four years. But about a month ago, the teen got a viral infection and was taken to Primary Children's Medical Center by ambulance. After six days in the intensive care unit, she bounced back and was released.
"You know Tori," Tim Schmanski said. "She is so strong. She fought through another one."
A week after returning home, however, Schmanski caught a respiratory infection. She had difficulty expelling the secretions in her lungs and became progressively weaker. Her parents decided against taking her back to the hospital and instead tried to make her comfortable during her final days at home.
Before her accident, Schmanski was a dancer and snowboarder who dreamed of attending Stanford University and becoming a doctor. She excelled academically and was well-liked by her fellow students.
"She was our hero. She truly was," said Tim Schmanski, adding: "She's whole again and in a better place now."
A celebration of Tori Schmanski's life will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the Windsor Stake Center at 1600 N. 60 East in Orem. The family will receive friends Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Walker Sanderson Funeral Home at 800 N. 646 East in Orem, and again at the Windsor Stake Center prior to the funeral service at 9:30 a.m. Interment will follow at the Orem City Cemetery. A light luncheon will be held afterward at the Windsor Stake Center.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to Primary Children's Medical Center in Tori Schmanski's name. Online condolences may be shared at http://walkerfamilymortuary.com" Target="_BLANK">walkerfamilymortuary.com.