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Transplant Patient Left Lasting Impression On Louisburg Community

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LOUISBURG, N.C. — A lot of attention in the case of Jesica Santillan, who died Saturday after two attempts at a heart-lung transplant, was focused on Duke University Hospital. But the 17-year-old Mexican immigrant made a lasting impression on her friends and neighbors in Franklin County, where she lived in the Louisburg area since she was in middle school.

Two memorial services were held Sunday in the Louisburg College Chapel, an English-speaking service in the morning and a Spanish-speaking service in late afternoon.

Neighbors came together to grieve and share their memories of Jesica.

One by one, the people who knew and loved Jesica stood in line for a chance to share hugs of comfort with the familyand a few tears.

Liana Henderson, Jesica's high-school Spanish teacher, considered Jesica a special student.

"It's very rare to have nowadays a student that is well-mannered and polite," Henderson said. "To have someone like that in your classroom makes your day."

Despite her medical condition, Jesica made it to school whenever she could. She carried that fighting spirit with her to the end as she battled for two weeks to survive two heart-lung transplants.

While some newspaper editors tried to remain impartial as they covered the events leading up to Jesica's death, it was hard for the staff of the Franklin Times to separate the emotional ties of her story.

"Well, they taught you and I in college that you're supposed to separate yourself from the story," Joe DeSantis, managing editor of the newpaper, said. "It's tough . . . She's just the kind of kid you want to hug."

DeSantis said Jesica's story was so much more than a news subject.

"No one's ever talked to her about how much she loves angels and her birthday last year and Christmas and the house that was built on her behalf," he said.

Newspaper employee Joyce Preddy had a heavy heart as she remembered Jesica. She knew Jesica as the bubbly girl who attended school with her granddaughter.

Preddy said she does not want people to dwell on the negative aspects of Jesica's story.

"You don't worry about that," Preddy said. "You go out and do something about it."

Some businesses in Louisburg were talking about a red-ribbon drive for Jessica. Drivers were asked to put red ribbons on their cars in Jesica's honor.


Mark Roberts, Reporter
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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