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January 17, 2006 > In Memoriam

In Memoriam

Jessica Irene Fernandes

Jessica Irene Fernandes was born on January 5, 2002, her grandfather's 88th birthday. She was a happy, social, and intelligent child who touched everyone she knew. The twinkle in her eye showed everyone her sense of humor. Her animated expressions, especially her eyebrows, and blinking and winking, let everyone know what she was thinking, even though she couldn't say it with words.

When she was three months old, Jessica was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), Type I; doctors didn't expect her to make it to her first birthday. But she survived until nine days short of her 4th birthday, passing away peacefully on December 27, 2005, surrounded by family and friends. She had a wonderful happy life.

Little Jessica loved to do things and go places, always ready for an adventure. Some of her favorite places were the library, bookstore, mall, park, zoo, aquarium, and Disneyland. She loved nature and would watch birds, especially hummingbirds, squirrels, skunks, and cats that visited her backyard. The trees and plants fascinated her and she always wanted to know the names of them. She enjoyed going for walks, at first in her stroller, and eventually in her power chair. At night, she enjoyed looking at the moon and stars, especially in her daddy's arms.

A people person, Jessica especially loved other children. She looked forward to seeing her friends at preschool every day and her playgroup friends every week. She would get so excited to "talk" with her friends with her communication tools. Endowed with a great sense of humor, Jessica would do whatever she could to get a reaction. She especially liked telling jokes and making people laugh.

Movement was Jessica's trademark. She enjoyed bouncing, spinning, dancing and used her power wheelchair, controlled using one finger, to explore the world. An excellent driver, the 300 lb. power chair maneuvered around just about anything. If she wanted your attention, she would drive up to you and beep her buzzer. If you didn't respond, beware, she would "bump" you. Her cousins loved to get rides on the back of her power chair. She loved to hug and be hugged, to rub noses, and give butterfly kisses. She enjoyed sitting in people's laps, but was very opinionated as to whose lap.

Jessica got used to seeing doctors, and they became her friends. She loved the nurses who cared for her at home and at the hospital. The hospital (both Children's Hospital Oakland and Kaiser Santa Clara) was her "home away from home." Staff members became part of her family making lengthy, often traumatic hospitalizations much more tolerable. Jessica would get excited about listening to her heart with the stethoscope.

Jessica is survived by her mother and father, Linda and Cledwyn Fernandes (Fremont), grandparents Aloysius and Yvonne Fernandes (Fremont) and Marge and Jim Shively (Los Altos Hills), her great-grandmother Margaret Luther (Alameda), and many aunts, uncles and cousins.

If you would like to make a donation in memory of Jessica, send your check to: Families of SMA, P.O. Box 3831, Los Altos, CA 94024-0831.

For more information on SMA and Jessica, visit, search Jessica Fernandes.

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