Organ donor flag raised on behalf of young Valdez woman
Family and friends say goodbye to high school student found unresponsive Saturday
A Valdez family - and the community - are in mourning after the family of Celeste Ditman announced a flag was being raised at Providence Hospital in Anchorage honoring the young woman's status as an organ donor.
Police are investigating the circumstances that led to the eventual death of the Valdez High School student.
"City of Valdez Fire and Police Departments responded Saturday to a report of an unresponsive 16-year old female in the Valdez High School pool locker room," said Allie Hendrickson, the city's public information officer, in a press release. "An off-duty certified lifeguard called for medical assistance and began cardiopulmonary resuscitation."
Hendrickson's Press release Saturday evening said emergency responders, including the police and fire departments, were called to the scene at approximately 12:26 p.m.
The pool has been closed until further notice according to the city.
The girl, who was not identified at the time, was taken to Providence Valdez Medical Center. A medical flight to Anchorage was delayed by weather according to Hendrickson.
"Weather cleared early Sunday morning, allowing the medivac aircraft to land in Valdez," she said in a follow-up email Sunday. "The young woman was transported to Anchorage at 12:50 a.m. She remains in critical condition."
No information was released regarding the cause of the girl's condition.
The school district was quick to respond to the needs of students Monday morning.
Superintendent Jim Nygaard said he brought his administrative team and school district counselors to the high school early Monday morning before the teachers arrived to develop a plan to address the needs of students.
Nygaard said he also asked Rep. Jim Colver for assistance in tapping state resources.
Parents of students that asked for help from staff were notified. Students who needed family support we're also allowed to go home he said.
"Absolutely, our thoughts and prayers are with the family," Nygaard said.
Board of education president Joe Prax praised the district's response Monday night during the regular school board meeting.
"Our community is dealing with a tragedy and it's awful to deal with," he said, but noted that as is typical during tough times, the community shines. "I guess it was a good reaction to a terrible situation."
Prax noted the difficulties inherent in dealing with a tragedy.
"We can't think what to say now," he said, "but they have to discuss it with 15-year olds."
Early social media posts by family of the victim asked for prayers, as the girl's prognosis for recovery was poor.
Tuesday evening, the girl's mother announced on social media that Celeste was hours away from becoming an organ donor.
"Today is a day for saying goodbye," Heather Haase said in a social media posting under photos of the Anchorage flag raising. "We are peaceful and taking joy in the fact that her death is bringing life. This flag will fly in her honor for five days."