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In Memory

Learn more about the ACHA friends and supporters we have lost - or submit a memorial for our website for someone you have loved and lost.

This page is dedicated to the ACHA family and friends whom we have lost. You can read their profiles here. We also invite you to submit a memorial on someone you loved who lived with ACHD for this website.

Please send your memorial submission to info@achaheart.org. Include the name of the person you are memorializing, along with your name and contact information. We encourage you to send a picture, but that is optional. Please keep your submission to 500 words or less. 

Emily Swearingen 1971-2013

Emily Swearingen died on May 27, 2013, at the age of 41, from complications related to a heart transplant. She was a graduate of Kansas State University and a huge Wildcat fan. As an avid golfer, she once played in Ireland. Proud of her Irish heritage, she proclaimed herself to be the "World's Tallest Leprechaun." Her sense of humor was an inspiration for all who knew her. An ACHA Heart to Heart Ambassador, the below is from Emily's profile:

"I was born with tricuspid atresia with atrial and ventricular septal defects; I had a Potts shunt at 11 months. My childhood was pretty uneventful; however, I did things a little backwards and saw an adult cardiologist my entire childhood. I finally started seeing a pediatric cardiologist at 26 and transferred my care to an ACHD cardiologist in 2007. In 1999, I had the Glenn procedure. In 2000, I was put on a heart transplant list but taken off after two years. Eventually, I will need a heart/lung transplant because I have pulmonary hypertension and stenosis. I have been able to do the things I’ve wanted growing up and even in adulthood, such as playing golf in Ireland about 9 years ago – walking the entire course. I came upon ACHA and have fallen in love with it because I never knew anyone with CHD nor had anyone who understood what I have gone through. I became an ACHA Ambassador to help others like me who think they are all alone, to provide them encouragement and to be a sounding board. I am happy to be living each day."

Laurie Tobin 1955-2000

It is with great sadness that I bring you the news that Laurie Tobin passed away on Tuesday, November 14, 2000. She was born in August of 1955 with single ventricle. She also had pulmonary hypertension and insulin dependent diabetes. She is survived by her partner Karen Zimmerman, her mother Sherry Tobin, her sister Lisa Morris, and her niece Lindsay Morris.

As with a lot of us adults with CHD, Laurie's parents were told not to expect her to live into adolescence. But despite this, and after having Dr. Potts perform his shunt, she went on to accomplish many things. After graduating from high school, she attended American University in Washington, DC, and law school at Cardozo University in New York City. Laurie went on to open her own law firm in Woodbridge, NJ, which is now in the care of her associate, Andrew Maze.

But most of all, Laurie was my first on-line and ACHD friend. We met through AOL's CHD bulletin board and would "talk" in our chat room. We discovered we had a lot more in common than similar CHDs and the same cardiologist. It was not unusual for me to sign on-line in the late evening or early morning and be pleasantly surprised to find Laurie on-line too. We would chat for hours about everything from growing up with CHD, our families, to TV shows we liked or disliked, or whatever was on our minds. All of the sudden we would realize we had stayed on-line way too long, and we would reluctantly decide to go to bed before it was time to get up.

If I were to describe Laurie as a "nice" person that would be a great understatement. She was a very giving, loving person who had a love for life and was also a great listener.

Laurie, everyone who had the pleasure of knowing you will miss you very much. We will love you always.

—Diane C. Clapp


Melissa Trothen 1973-2000

Melissa passed away just over three months after her corrective surgery for tetralogy of Fallot. She fought to recover for she wanted so much to feel better. She was looking forward to the cauterization that would help her to feel "like a million bucks." It was not meant to be.

In her 27 years, Melissa had an incredible impact on every life that she touched. She was always smiling, and was quick with a joke or sentiment to cheer someone's gloomy day. Always concerned about others, she rarely thought about her defects as disabling, and strove instead to make others happy.

Melissa's caring attitude was what lead her to co-found the Heart Defects Society of Windsor and Essex County (HDS) with Claudette Dugas and myself. When we began planning to form a support group, there was so much enthusiasm and so many ideas that we decided to become a charitable organization. We felt this would allow us to be able to create change and help all those with defects. A lot of this energy came from Melissa, and many of our ideas were given wings with her lighthearted manner.

I feel truly blessed to have met her and to share in something so wonderful and meaningful with her. Claudette and I will miss her terribly, but we, along with the other members of the HDS will strive to make this charity a success in Melissa's memory.

—Francine Robitaille

Tracey True

The following poems were written by Tracey True, who passed away in 2001.

My New Heart
By Tracey True

Take away my broken heart,
please do what you can.
Let me wake in the morning,
to watch the sun hit the sky.
Let me listen to the birds,
as they fly on by.
Let me wake to the new fallen dew,
and give me the chance to do the things I want to.
And at the end of each day,
when all things are said and done,
Let me watch it change from moon to sun.
Take my broken heart,
Please do what you can.

As I Sit and Wait
By Tracey True

As I sit and wait, I wonder,
who will have to die so I can live?
As I sit and wait, I wonder,
why does someone have to die so someone can live?
As I sit and wait, I wonder,


Michele Trunnell 1978-2001

Nearly a month has passed and I still cannot believe that we lost our Michy. Michele Trunnell (MTrunn5402) died April 18, 2001, of complications from a double lung transplant. She had lived nearly four weeks after the transplant. She maintained her courage through all of it and gave us all a lesson on living and dying before she left us. I think of her often and wonder at such courage for someone so young.

I have known Michele since she was 17 years old. She died at 22—just three months short of her twenty-third birthday. I met Michele the second or third day I was on-line. I was new to the chat rooms and we met in a room called "Mutual Support on AOL." We had transplant and CHD in common along with pulmonary hypertension. Michele had secondary pulmonary hypertension from a repaired VSD. At the time I was looking into heart/lung transplantation. Despite the age difference, we became fast friends. A few days later I met Diane Clapp and the three of us often chatted in private rooms.

That was five years ago and we have chatted over the years and shared all our heartbreaks, triumphs, disasters and other things that make up a life. We have covered nearly every topic there was to cover. We talked on the phone several times—exchanged pictures, and finally met this past January. It was such a blessing to be able to meet her in her home and meet Travis as well. It helped me to picture her when we were on-line. I treasure that day and wish there could have been more.

To know Michele was to love her. She was funny and ROFLOL (Rolling On the Floor Laughing Out Loud) all the time on-line. She was one of the best chat hosts I have ever witnessed making everyone feel comfortable. She was just full of love and even though she was very young—she was an old soul. She was wise far beyond her years.

Michele accomplished a lot in her short stay here. She was a member of Rainbow and had many "sisters" in that group. She was an active advocate of transplant—educating, and working tirelessly for the cause. She started hosting a donor awareness chat and later renamed it the "recycle yourself" chat. She was a beloved member of the AllHealth network with AOL and loved by all. She was an active member of several chats. The gap created by her loss is not one that can be filled by another, but must be filled with her memories.

Michele leaves behind her husband and life partner, Travis, her mother and stepfather—Cindy and Robbie MacDonald and her sister and brother—Marcey and Bobby and their families and a host of on-line and life friends that loved her and will miss her forever. When I am at my saddest, I try to think of her running or riding a bike—doing anything she so longed to do and never could down here. I love you Sweets—see you again someday.

—Sheri Maxwell

George Warren 1947-2013

The ACHA community was deeply saddened by the loss of longtime ACHA board member Dr. George H. Warren on April 29, 2013.

For more about George's life, please click here.