Waynesboro woman remembered as living life to the fullest

December 15, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH
  • Sara and Chris Edelman were married June 23, 2007, at St. Rita???s Catholic Church in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.
Submitted photo

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — A Waynesboro woman who championed organ donation after receiving a heart and lung 13 years ago is being remembered by family members for her ability to live life to its fullest.

Sara M. (Henke) Edelman cherished family, her job, Girl Scouts and transplant causes, her husband and parents said.

“She’d never tell you when she couldn’t keep up,” said Chris Edelman, Sara’s husband.

Edelman died Nov. 5 at age 33 when undergoing one of her final treatments for cancer. She developed post-transplant lymphoma that was diagnosed in fall 2009.

Even after a second tumor was discovered in her chest, Sara tried to live the same lifestyle. She served as a matron of honor in a friend’s wedding and hosted a sleepover for Girl Scouts from her Rouzerville, Pa., troop in her last weeks.

Sara’s mother, Pauline Henke, said her daughter loved being physically active after receiving the heart and lung in 1997. Sara, who had been diagnosed with congenital heart disease when only 3 days old, climbed a tree and ran with her cousins when the new organs gave her energy.


She participated in the Olympics-style Transplant Games several times, tackling bicycle rides, table tennis and track and field activities with other organ recipients.

Sara graduated from Waynesboro Area Senior High School in 1996, after spending her senior year connected to an oxygen tank. Her health had deteriorated greatly when doctors in Philadelphia announced they’d found suitable transplant organs.

In a 2008 interview, Sara said she never thought she’d wait seven months for a transplant but passed the time by bonding with other patients.

“It got to the point where they all got their transplants and went home,” she said, ”and there I’d sit.”
Sara’s family said she spoke to groups about supporting the Gift of Life organization and told transplant recipients to avoid living sheltered lives.

“She’d say, ‘Get out there and do it. You can now,’” Pauline Henke said.

Chris said he met Sara in seventh-grade and reconnected with her in 2005. They were married June 23, 2007, at St. Rita’s Catholic Church in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.

Sara worked in agricultural preservation in Washington County. Her father, Robert Henke, said she wanted to continue working during cancer treatments.

Pauline Henke said her daughter took leadership of the Girl Scouts troop when her nieces needed someone for that role. She loved spending time with her younger brother Jeremy’s three children.

“She always wanted to teach them to be independent,” Chris said of Sara’s lessons for the Girl Scouts.

Relishing independence after years of hospital stays was a cornerstone of Sara’s life post-transplant, her family said.

“Sara was planning her ‘my cancer is over’ party,” Pauline Henke said.

More than 300 people attended Sara’s funeral on Nov. 11. The family received cards and online messages from people they didn’t know, but had been touched by Sara.

“Everywhere she went she developed friendships,” Robert Henke said.

“For me, it was a true tribute,” Pauline Henke said.

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