Terminally Ill Teen Hosts Prom Before Ending Her Life

Jerika Bolen's prom was unlike any other. The party, which went down last Friday, had all the makings of a great night — the perfect dress, a disco ball, great music, and great friends — but this prom was meant to be Bolen's "last dance" before her death.

Bolen, a 14-year-old from Appleton, WI, has Type 2 spinal muscular atrophy, an incurable disease that causes muscle wasting as well as chronic pain. Bolen is currently being kept alive by a ventilator she uses 12 hours each day, but facing increasing pain and the likelihood that she will eventually lose the ability to talk and move her hands, she has decided to end her treatment, she explained to the Washington Post.

At the end of August, she will remove the ventilator and wait for the inevitable. But before that, she wanted to go to prom.

According to local newspaper the Appleton Post-Crescent, the party drew in people from California, Florida, Indiana, and everywhere in between.

"I promised my child when it got to be too much I would be behind her no matter what," her mother wrote on a GoFundMe page to raise money for the prom. "She wants a to have a 'prom'...one night of music and dancing and fun. She wants a disco ball and black and lime green decor and to be surrounded by lots of friends she has been unable to see for a long time[...] After that she will come home and begin her journey to Heaven."

The GoFundMe raised more than $35,000, surpassing the $25,000 goal. The Post-Crescent reports that the venue, which holds 1,000 people, was packed to the brim on the night of Bolen's prom.
“It’s awesome,” Bolen told the paper. “It’s fun. It’s a lot of people, and they look up to me. It’s kind of scary because I don’t know what they’re looking up to me for.”

She also shared videos from the prom on her Facebook page, including a touching one of herself with her mother for the "last dance."
Bolen has lived through close to 40 surgeries in order to manage her disease. After her 38th surgery, however, she came to a decision. “I sat myself down and I thought, ‘Jerika, am I here for me or am I here for my family? I can’t even do anything besides lie in bed because I’m so sore,’” she told Washington Post.

Though her mother objected to the decision and suggested upping her pain medication at first, Bolen remained firm: “No, Mom. I’m serious,” she said. “I’m actually done.”
Bolen is now receiving hospice care at home, where she will make the most of her final summer with her family.
“I try to be as happy as possible,” she told the Post-Crescent. “I know I can’t always be happy every day. I still wonder why God picked me to have this disease and I know I can never know the reason. Maybe because I’m strong, I guess.”

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