A beloved Lakeridge High senior died Saturday after developing a heart infection from complications related to pneumonia, according to her family.
Nina Heidgerken, 18, was hospitalized Tuesday after struggling with the illness. Her uncle, Thane Cleland, told FOX 12 his niece’s condition rapidly deteriorated shortly after arriving at the emergency room at Legacy Emanuel.
“She was admitted immediately, and started having organ troubles right away and got hooked up to a heart and lung machine almost immediately, and fought really hard for three and a half days,” Cleland said, adding that she was later moved to OHSU for a variety of procedures before she died.
“The difference between a normal illness and this illness, is she ended up with a viral infection in her heart,” Cleland said.
Since her death, there’s been an outpouring of grief and love in the Lake Oswego community.
Flowers and scrawled messages of love and support sit near the performing arts center of the high school.
A ‘Caring Bridge’ page set up by her family has been viewed more than 26,000 times and offers more than 100 comments and prayers.
Cleland said the family has greeted a steady stream of friends and supporters since her passing.
“A couple girls stopped by the house this afternoon -- that we had never met – but they loved Nina, and brought a lot of messages from everybody in the community,” Cleland said. “It’s really been a staggering outpouring from several different communities that she has touched over her lifetime.”
By all accounts, the teen was talented, smart, popular and well-known for her energy and kind heart.
Cleland said one note the family received really stuck with him: “Nina was the one who would say ‘hi’ to the new kids and always put her arm around people, she wouldn’t let anybody eat lunch alone,” Cleland recalled.
Heidgerken was also at home on the stage, as a staple in the school’s theater performances over the course of her high school career.
“She was really natural on stage, no hesitations,” Cleland said.
Most recently, she played one of the sons in a performance of Mary Poppins.
“She was absolutely incredible, as much as her part could steal the show, she did,” Cleland said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen her as excited as she was during that run – before, during and after. It was pretty awesome.”
Outside of her school activities, church and faith also played a starring role in her life.
Cleland said she was active with her family’s church, Community of Faith in West Linn, where she would often go on mission trips as well as sing and play the viola during services.
Her faith and devotion to religion, has been comforting for the family, as well as the support and love the community has showered on them.
“To remember how much she cared for people, how much she loved other people, and she devoted her life to being a servant and she’s in a better place now,” Cleland said.
Cleland said Heidgerken was planning on attending Corban University and had hopes of becoming a teacher.
A spokeswoman for the Lake Oswego School District said grief counselors will be made available for students as they return from Spring Break.
The family is planning a memorial for this next weekend, but said details have not yet been finalized.
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