Family of Paige Merical issues statement on organ donation plans

EMERALD ISLE, NC (WITN) The family of a teenager critically injured in a swimming mishap last Friday at Emerald Isle says they are following through with her wishes of being an organ donor.

The father of Paige Merical said earlier today that the 17-year-old Wake Forest girl was brain dead.

She and 18-year-old Ian Lewis, also from Wake Forest, were swimming when they were caught in a rip current. His body was found Monday.

In the statement, the family thanked first responders, the Coast Guard, the staff at Carteret Health Care, and those at the James & Connie Maynard Children's Hospital at Vidant Medical Center.

"While this is not the outcome that any of us prayed for, we hope that the decision Paige made to be an organ donor will not only allow her to save multiple lives but bring awareness to pediatric organ donation nationwide," the family said.

They also want to remind people that while the beach is a joyous place, it can quickly become dangerous. "We encourage families to educate themselves on the dangers of rip currents," the statement read.

A private flag-raising ceremony to honor Merical's life and the organ donation will be held Friday evening at Vidant Medical Center.


Paige Merical's Family Statement
We would like to express our most sincere gratitude to the local Wake Forest and Emerald Isle communities, the State of North Carolina and those worldwide for their prayers, concern, donations and well wishes for Paige. Since this tragedy occurred at Emerald Isle on Friday, April 19, we have been inundated with your love and prayers that have given us hope and sustained us during our time of grief.

From the first responders on scene to the Coast Guard and the medical staff at Carteret Health Care, we appreciate your valiant efforts in rescuing Paige from the rough waters and resuscitating her. Your tireless search for Ian Lewis to bring him home to his family means more than you could know.

We would like to thank the staff, providers and nurses in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the James and Connie Maynard Children's Hospital at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, North Carolina. They have been a constant source of support and information, fielding all of our questions as we navigated this nightmare for the last week. The compassion and love they showed Paige, as a patient, is something we will never forget and for which we will be forever grateful.

While this is not the outcome that any of us prayed for, we hope that the decision Paige made to be an organ donor will not only allow her to save multiple lives but bring awareness to pediatric organ donation nationwide. What an honor it is for us, her family, to know she will be living on in others, giving them the gift of life. We would encourage others to register to become an organ donor to support the gift of life, just as Paige did. Valuable information can be found at carolinadonorservices.org/ and at organdonor.gov.

It is also important to us to remind people about the importance of water safety and the dangers of rip currents. The beach is a joyous place for so many but it can quickly become dangerous. We encourage families to educate themselves on the dangers of rip currents. Oceanservice.noaa.gov is a great resource.

In lieu of flowers, we ask that those interested would please consider donating to Prayers for Paige Go Fund Me Account and the Live for Ian Go Fund Me Account, which will help to support both our family and Ian's during this difficult time.

There will be a private flag-raising ceremony to honor Paige's life and her generous gift of organ and tissue donation on Friday, April 26th at 7:30 p.m. at Vidant Medical Center, which will begin in the chapel, as well as a tower lighting in her honor outside the hospital. This is for Paige's immediate family and friends and will not be open to the media or public.

Arrangements for Paige's memorial service are pending at this time.
Thank you!


Previous Story

The teenage girl who was rescued from a rip current on the Crystal Coast last Friday is brain dead, according to a Facebook post by family members.

John Merical shared late Wednesday night in a public Facebook post that 17-year-old Paige Merical's brain was "too severely damaged" after she was rescued from the water off Emerald Isle nearly a week ago.

In the post, he says Paige was a big proponent of organ donation and he says her organs will be donated on Saturday.

He writes, "Paige was a big supporter of this. Please consider being a donor. By next week Paige will live on thru others."

Merical was swimming at Emerald Isle with her friend, 18-year-old Ian Lewis from Wake Forest, when they were caught in a rip current last Friday afternoon.

Lewis' body was found on Monday.

A GoFundMe page is raising money to help Paige's family with medical expenses. So far, about $8,700 has been donated.

In an update to the GoFundMe page, supporter Meredith Jarrell says "This has been a heartbreaking battle, but it appears Paige has been called to heaven far sooner than we ever thought possible. This is a very trying time for her parents and our family as we will struggle to get through every second minute hour day week month and year without her here."



PREVIOUS STORY
Emerald Isle police say they have recovered the body of a teenager who was last seen swimming along the coast Friday afternoon.

Police say the body of 18-year-old Ian Lewis was found near the 2800 block of the Emerald Isle Beach Strand around 3:30 a.m. Monday.

Lewis was swimming with friends when police say the Wake Forest teenager and another swimmer, 17-year-old Paige Merical, were caught up in a rip current.

Police, fire, EMS and the Coast Guard began search and recovery efforts after the two teenagers were reported missing.

Merical was transported to Carteret Health Care after being rescued from the ocean by Emerald Isle Fire and Rescue.

She was transferred to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville late Friday. Vidant said this morning that she remains in critical condition.

The two were classmates at Wake Forest High School where Lewis was a member of the soccer team.

A GoFundMe has been set up to benefit the family of Lewis.



Previous Story

Weather and surf conditions will dictate the search and recovery efforts for a missing swimmer off Emerald Isle.

Crews continued their recovery efforts for 18-year-old Ian Lewis of Wake Forest Saturday. Rough conditions forced authorities to suspend the search overnight, Emperal Isle Police Chief James Reese said.

Rescue efforts began Friday afternoon when two teenager swimmers began struggling in the water.

17-year-old Mary Paige Merical of Raleigh was rescued from the surf and taken to the hospital. She was later transferred to Vidant Medical Center where she is currently listed in critical condition, according to the hospital.

18-year-old Ian Lewis of Wake Forest is still missing.



Previous Story

Search and recovery efforts have been suspended for a missing swimmer off Emerald Isle.

Emerald Isle Police Chief James Reese said there is nothing new to report as of 8am Saturday.

Rescue efforts began Friday afternoon when two teenager swimmers began struggling in the water.

17-year-old Mary Paige Merical of Raleigh was rescued from the surf and taken to the hospital.

18-year-old Ian Frazier Lewis of Wake Forest is still missing.

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for Lewis around 8pm Friday because of weather and a spokesperson says there are no plans to resume that search at this time.

Previous Story:

Emerald Isle Police say that search and recovery efforts are underway for a swimmer that has been reported missing.

At 3:50 p.m. Carteret County Emergency Communications received a report of two swimmers in distress in the area of 9300 block of the Emerald Isle beach strand.

Emerald Isle Police, Fire and EMS personnel responded and once on scene were advised by witnesses that there were two swimmers in the water that were no longer visible.

Search efforts were initiated for 17-year-old Mary Paige Merical of Raleigh and 18-year-old Ian Frazier Lewis of Wake Forest.

Emerald Isle Fire Department personnel were able to locate and pull Merical from the surf where life-saving efforts were started immediately. She was transported to Carteret General Hospital by emergency medical services personnel. Her condition is unknown at this time.

Search efforts are continuing for Lewis.

Coast Guard Sector Wilmington was notified and dispatched a Coast Guard Cutter from Cape Lookout and a rescue helicopter from Coast Guard Station Elizabeth City to the scene to assist in the search and recovery efforts.

Surf conditions reported at the time of this event were extremely rough with waves reported at 6-9 feet and a water temperature of 62 degrees.

No additional information is being released at this time.