Jerika Bolen, the strong-willed teen whose decision to stop treatment for her terminal illness touched hearts across the country, died Thursday in hospice care, her mother said.
The 14-year-old had battled her entire life against Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2, an incurable and brutal disease that confined her to a wheelchair and left her with only limited movement in her hands and face.
With her mother, Jen, she decided this summer she was ready to end the chronic pain that grew ever worse and reduced her quality of life with each passing day.
There was no hope of getting better, and she knew it.
“My only words to anyone questioning this, is that I love that girl with every cell in my being,” her mother told the Post-Crescent newspaper in Appleton, Wisconsin. “And no one in their right mind would let someone suffer like she was.”
She chose to enter hospice care and to be removed from her ventilator.
"After all she has been through, I owe this to her," her mother told InsideEdition.com in July. “She tells me every day she is ready now.”
Jerika’s readiness prompted compassion as well as criticism and reopened divisive discussions about deciding to end one’s life.
"It's frustrating when I continue to get these messages trying to say they know where she's coming from, because they don't," Bolen told InsideEdition.com. "She decided on this for a long time."
Jerika had one last thing she wanted do. In July, she wore a long, frilly dress and a tiara and went to a special prom in her honor titled, “J’s Last Dance.”
More than 1,000 people showed up. Television crews came, too. As did the Appleton police chief and YouTube star Richie Giese.
A GoFundMe page raised more than $30,000 for the gala, and for Jerika’s regular expenses.
In all her finery, Jerika rolled her motorized wheelchair under a disco ball and held court as a long succession of well-wishers filed by and danced with her.
The first dance was with her mother, as “In My Daughter’s Eyes” blared from the speakers.
Her mother leaned down to Jerika and said, “I hope this is the best night of your life,” the local paper reported.