I've been thinking about sharing this story for the longest time. You guys know me as just a happy go lucky, irrational optimist for our Blazers with really nothing ever serious coming out of my post except light-hearted banter. Woooot wooot;)
As I continue to be accepted into this wonderful, intelligent, respectful, and kind-hearted community, I felt this is a good time to share the story behind Greg Oden's Red Bracelet, the same one you've seen me wear for those who've met me. I know that the BEdge community would really appreciate knowing the background of how it got to GO.
Greg wears two bracelets during every Blazer game. The white bracelet is for his best friend Travis Smith, you may recall, who was killed in an automobile accident in May 2007.
The red bracelet he wears is for my niece Vina, who passed away last January. She's also the niece of graphic/video extraordinaire BEdger Lazytrail.
The story of the Red Bracelet sheds light on not only Greg, but the whole Blazer's organization. The journal entries below is what I wrote to keep family and friends up to date during our battle, and have recapped it here for you to get some background on the story. (Please remember this was written during the hardest time of my life, and some items might not have been properly explain since I'm not Doogie Howser)
Her battle started Friday, January 4th, 2008:
She had a cold and fever for a week and then a fever of 105 for a couple days, was really lethargic but didn't tell anyone and took some Tylenol.
It didn't help her too much and she went into seizures Friday morning and was rushed to ER at St. Vincents. The seizures didn't stop so she went to OHSU Doernbecher's Pediatric ICU. They gave her 24 hours to live.
The doctors told us she had Encephalitis - http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/encephalitis/DS00226/DSECTION=2
It's an inflammation of the brain that is caused by a viral disease. The doctors said it's a high chance that the viral disease that caused Encephalitis was just a regular flu or viral meningitis. Along with that, she had a pulmonary virus. They said in rare cases, these 3 viral diseases coincide and attacks the brain to create a severe case of Encephalitis. In her case, it was a 1 in 17 million chance. She had a pretty rough weekend that included her body shutting down for a brief moment.
The doctors said that Encephalitis itself is not contagious but any viral disease such as the flu, meningitis can be transfer through the typical methods of fluid transfer through sneezing, coughing, etc. The good thing is that she doesn't have bacterial meningitis, which is the worst case. It's rare that any of these viruses causes Encephalitis in anyone other than newborns and over 55 yrs old. No one knows how this happen because viral infections are common, it's just uncommon that it would attack the brain.
To quote him, it was really "lightning in a bottle." He also said he's seen a lot of people just wake up after a few days and walk out of the hospital but it typically takes a good two weeks.
The week of January 7th, 2008:
They thought Vina wouldn't last through the weekend but she kept fighting and the Doctors were amazed at her strength. She was getting better but also had relapses for the whole week. Her body is now fighting potentially other infections such as influenza, mono, and most importantly, low blood pressure, and heart infections because of the anti seizure medication.
So the Doctors are working extremely hard to walk this balancing act of which area they focus on: the heart, brain, or lungs. The gameplan is to get her through the medication and control any infections before trying to get her out of sedation.
She has fought through the 24 hour diagnosis, then the hourly watch diagnosis, so we have great hopes that she will fight completely through this.
Saturday, January 12th:
Because of all her medications, the Doctors were afraid of it becoming toxic. Because the seizures didn't completely go away, they had to take the next step which is to shut her body down so the seizures can stop. Basically, put her in a 48 hour coma. For the first 4 hours of the wee morning, she was doing great, and then she had a relapse and the seizures came back.
At this point, her parents, and our family had to make a decision. They can't provide anymore anti-seizure medication because it was becoming toxic. It was to the point where the seizures were damaging all her brain tissues. If she remained in the coma, the encephalitis was so bad that her brain was starting to have secretion and the pain for her would be unbearable. Basically, the Doctors gave her Mom the choice of having Vina convulse to death, or provide her medication to help her go peacefully. She opted to having Vina slowly taking off life support. We were angry, mad, confused, sad, and any other emotions you can imagine.
At 2:25 pm, she went peacefully to Heaven. She's our angel.
Vina grew up most of her life with her Mom and her Grandma. Her parents separated at a young age and she visited her Dad multiple times a year. She was Daddy's girl for sure but her Mom and sister were her soulmates. Her Mom went through great ordeals to raise both of them to be great young ladies who would make an impact in this world.
Her Grandma took care of her and all of her cousins. Grandma was so sick on Saturday. She fainted when the Doctors said Vina will not make it. She screamed, kicked, pulled her hair, hit herself in complete delirium.
After Vina past, I asked her Mom to allow Grandma one more chance to see Vina. With her eyes so puffy, her ankle sprain, and her heart completely crushed, she saw Vina one last time in PICU. In a split second of seeing Vina, she went hysterical, and I carried her out with the help of the nurses and Doctors. As we rushed out, tears went down all our faces, and those of the nearing patients, families and doctor. Grandma had to be restrained from hurting herself. With our family members repeating to her that Vina is in Heaven, following a higher path graced to her.
We took turns watching over Vina throughout the week. It was so sad and unfortunate she did not get to see her birth Father. He wasn't unable to make it in time to see her. He never had the chance to see her again. She loved her Dad so much and was a mimic of him.
Our family continues to struggle with the passing of Vina. But we all want to let you know how strong she was in this battle. The Doctors at OHSU has never seen anyone fought this hard, let alone a 12 year old child. Her diagnosis was 24 hours and she fought for a week. She loved everyone so much and everyone loved her. She was so kind hearted. She never said a bad word, never had a grudge and always said Thank You, Please, and Love you.
The one thing that Grandma, her Dad, and all our extended family share was the love for our Blazers. We immigrated here in '76 from SE Asia and caught Rip City at the right time.
We prepared a walk-a-thon for her on March 15th, 2008 to help other children fight Mengineaolcephalitis, since there is no cure. We eventually raised over $15,000 and sent all the money to Doernbecher's Hospital on Vina's behalf to help other children in the Pediatric ICU.
She loved her family, friends, the Blazers, her Nike kicks, and the color red.
As part of the Walk-a-Thon, we created Red Bracelets that had Vina's Victory of Virus charity and her favorite saying before playing basketball, "Pound the Pavement!!!" She was a baller too.
The Blazers Organization
Vina was the biggest fan of the Blazers and never ever wavered on her support. We all knew it would have lifted her spirits to hear some of the players visiting because she was still able to comprehend when we spoke to her.
We also knew it was unrealistic but took a shot to see if some of the players would visit the whole OHSU PICU. We knew they come quite often and just hoped that they showed up during her stay. Unfortunately, they had a road trip that week or were somehow tied up, and weren't able to re-arrange their hospital visit/tour.
I use to work for Traci Rose, the VP of Community Relations for the Portland Trailblazers a long time ago. Traci is the most kind-hearted person I've ever met. I reached out to her to see if there was anything that they could do (maybe even Blaze) and of course, she said she would do whatever she can and try to arrange something when the team is back and make sure the team hears her story. This is how her WHOLE TEAM operates, no questions ask, just "how can we help?"
Some of us also knew the players directly. We heard that some of the team members, Martell/Travis/Sergio/GO were gonna drop by OHSU but by the time they got back, Vina had already left us for heaven. I heard they came by anyways to lift the spirits of all the kids in PICU. They do that quite often but most fans will never hear about it.
A few weeks after Vina's passing, her cousins saw Martell at an autograph session. After the session was done, they went up to Martell to tell him the story of Vina.
He said he already knew and have been trying to reach out to us. They gave Martell shirts and bracelets from Vina's charity. Martell shared the story with the rest of the team.
Martell went out of his way to find our email to thank us for allowing him to hear Vina's story. He said every Blazer listened to Vina's story, especially Greg, who asked to wear the bracelets. From that day on, we have always seen Greg with the red bracelet in every game. Totally classy from both of them.
Greg has invited us to his birthday, community events, and has been a great role model for all of Vina's cousins and the hundreds of kids in Portland. This also goes for Martell, and the rest of the Blazers. Words have been spreading and you can see the Jabbawokeez and many others wear her bracelet. It all started from Martell and Greg.
It breaks my heart to hear people say he doesn't care about basketball. He cares about people. He's the most genuine 21 year old we have ever encountered. I sometime sense that he gets down on himself because he knows so many kids look up to him. He will not let any of them down and us down. I can just see it in his eyes. He has that rare mindset where he thinks about the greater good than just himself. In my mind, he doesn't need to do anything else and I hope they never change. He's been a gift to us.
You will see Lebron wear King James Bracelets, Dwight Howard wear Superman Bracelets, Joe Johnson and a crew of others wear Jordan bracelets. G.O. is wearing Travis Smith and Vina's bracelet. I'm not saying those other players don't care about the kids or community, I'm just saying Greg has a different approach, and it's never seems to be about him.
We are definitely blessed as fans to have these guys on our team. They will make some mistakes as they grow, but it would be foolish for us to not recognize right now that we have a VERY special group of players. Everything about these guys are 100% real.
So the next time you are at a game, and see Greg wearing the red bracelet, I hope it brings a smile to your face. Vina is definitely smiling upon us and the Blazers organization for what they have brought to this community.
As the team continues to lift our spirit, let's make sure we lift theirs in the best and worst of times.
As we left OHSU that day over a year ago, a FULL rainbow appeared over the skyline breaking through the thunderous clouds that had rain all day. My niece is definitely smiling at what the Blazers have accomplished both on and off the court.
I still believe that rainbow is watching over our beloved city.
As tears rolled down to my laptop, I hope everyone can feel my gratitude toward our Blazer community (BEdge included for the amazing charitable things we've done) and sharing Vina's story can give everyone a small peak into the selflessness of Martell/Greg, the strength of Vina, and the beauty of our extended community.
Peace. Stay Cool. Forever.
- BRP & LazyTrail
Here's a small video of Vina a few months prior to her passing:
I've been away from the computer today (traveling) and because I couldn't bear getting more emotional... I knew the comments would melt my heart. When I logged backed on, there were over 100 recs and many people were touched by the story. My wife and I cried reading them. We just want to say THANK YOU. This is definitely not about me or Lazytrail, it's about the Blazers and our niece Vina.
I just re-read what I wrote and forgot to mention in more detail about Vina's mom and sister, Nina and Tiffany Trinh. Nina is the rock in the family. She raised two beautiful daughters and was Vina's soul. With the strength of Nina and Joe, she turn Vina's battle into a lesson of spiritual triumph and hope through Vina's foundation. It's impossible to comprehend what LazyTrail and myself went through, but my heart hurts more when I think about it for Nina and Tiffany. I love them both so much and am blessed that they allow me to be the fun uncle hanging out with Vina. Nina is one of the strongest person I know, and we all cope differently, but the lessons we learned about Vina, came about because of the great qualities of her Mom, Nina who never ever once gave up. She raised two of the most kind human beings to grace us.
We honor her family by loving a bit more, sharing our time with each other, taking that extra effort to smile, finding happiness in quiet times, finding laughter in life, apologize a bit more, heal past arguments, and find joy in family and friends. And above all, protect and love our children...
Was there any doubt our Blazers were gonna pull of the victory tonight;)? WOOOOT WOOT!. I have a couple hundred bracelets left and would like to give them out FREE to BEdge members for the playoff run. I think it would be very cool if many of us wear them during the games. I know both Vina and Greg would appreciate it. Just email me your address and I'll send them out. Yes, I'll send all 200 individually wherever you are. And please, don't try to send any money, although greatly appreciated, that is not the purpose here. Spreading her story means more to us. If you like to learn more, go to the foundation's site here:
Thank you again and GO BLAZERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!