FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. — A musician, artist and athlete taken far too soon.
Ariana Rae, known to many as Ana, was a star student-athlete and artist at Fernandina Beach High School.
“She was a very giving soul; she would give anybody anything,” her father, Mark Delfs, said.
But at just 17 years old, Ana died of mononucleosis, a contagious disease many people have heard of, but one that many believe isn’t deadly.
“Your body is supposed to be able to fight it off. It was too far, too fast,” Delfs said.
Three weeks ago, she started feeling sick.
“She had cold symptoms. The persistent thing all the way through was a headache; she seem to always have a headache.”
Delfs says they took her to the doctor and they did a lot of tests, but the doctors still couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong.
Her condition kept getting worse.
“One evening, not too long ago, she started throwing up just constantly. We got very nervous, so the next morning at 7 a.m. we said we’re going to take her to the hospital.”
But there, her symptoms only got worse.
“She got up to go to the bathroom," he said. "All of a sudden she couldn’t feel part of her legs, and she felt like her legs were just giving out.”
Doctors thought she was having a stroke and airlifted her to a hospital in Jacksonville.
“Her words were very slurred at times. She was just talking gibberish, and the damage was already beginning at that point, which we just didn’t know,” her dad said.
It was only in her final days when doctors learned what was wrong.
“She actually had mono and Epstein-Barr, which is mononucleosis, which is the sleeping disease.”
Something doctors had tested for but Delfs says they couldn’t detect it.
Ana had been in the hospital for only three days when Delfs had to say goodbye to her.
“Her brain swelled to the point where it couldn’t function and brain damage did occur," he said. “And we just made the decision that it was time to let her go.”
While the Delfs and the entire community are still coming to terms with the loss, her father hopes her story can save someone else’s child.
He urges parents to take every symptom of illness seriously and be on top of it.
“In our case, it wasn’t enough, but in somebody else’s case it may save their life,” he said.
Delfs says the silver lining to it all was the fact that she will continue helping people.
“The doctor actually told us she was an organ donor and we were just, I can’t even describe it. We were just like, ‘Wow, that’s her. That sums her up right there.’”
There is a big community rallying behind the Delfs family. Mark Delfs has started a GoFundMe legacy fund in his daughter’s honor.
“Within 24 hours, I think, we just about hit $10,000, which I’m just so blown away by.”
He says the money will be donated to all the places, people and organizations that Ana loved.
Her funeral is Wednesday, Dec. 11 at her favorite spot to watch a sunset -- at Dee Dee Bartels Boat Ramp in Fernandina Beach from 4 to 7 p.m.
If you would like to help, visit www.arianadelfs.com.