Fitch students wear pink to remember classmate


By Justin Wier

jwier@vindy.com

AUSTINTOWN

Pink will line the halls of Austintown Fitch High School on Friday as students wear the color to remember a classmate who died over the weekend.

A group of students approached the school’s principal with the idea to honor Tabitha Fiorenza, a sophomore at Fitch, who died Saturday at age 17.

The Vindicator wrote about Tabitha at age 7, as she awaited a heart transplant.

She told a Vindicator reporter she was anxious to get the transplant so she could run and play like other kids.

She received the transplant, and Tabitha’s parents, Lori and Michael, said she had nine good years before problems arose in the last year.

A few months after a hospitalization, she began to retain fluid. Doctors told her parents her heart was under attack by antibodies; her kidneys and lungs began to shut down.

“I can’t sleep at night,” Michael said. “All I do is just think of her. ... I wish we had her back.”

The Fiorenzas said their daughter was a caring, giving, loving child of God who liked hanging out with her boyfriend and her siblings.

“She was always trying to help people,” Michael said. “She wouldn’t kill any insects or spiders; I always had to let them outside.”

On near-daily walks through Calvary Cemetery, her dad said she would call every Canada goose she encountered “Fred.”

Tabitha was born without the heart valve that regulates blood flow to her lungs. She underwent surgery at 4 days old to insert a shunt and again at age 2 to replace the shunt with part of a vein.

In 2008, she began to have chest pains, which led to the transplant.

Her father said the experience guided her career aspirations.

“She wanted to be a nurse because she wanted to give back what she got,” he said. “She wanted to work at Cleveland Clinic.”

In addition to the show of support by her classmates at Fitch, the community has donated nearly $2,000 to a Gofundme page.

Michael said his sister started the campaign when the family realized its life insurance policy didn’t cover Tabitha.

He said the outpouring of support has helped the family through this difficult time.

“There are a lot of good people out there,” Michael said. “It’s made us feel really good.”

Those interested in donating to the Tabitha Fiorenza memorial fund can visit www.gofundme.com/for-the-love-of-tabitha.

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