At a very young age, Meghan Gannon was diagnosed with a rare degenerative neuromuscular disease. She had special education services at Kings Highway Elementary, Coleytown Middle and Staples High Schools.
But you’d have been hard pressed to know anything was wrong.
Meghan was irrepressible. She skied, did ballet, and was a Girl Scout.
She was lively, with a tremendous sense of humor. She never felt sorry for herself, and always cared about others.
Meghan went to the Staples Class of 2016 senior prom, then graduated a few days later.
But her disease caught up with her. She soon had trouble chewing and swallowing. She was hospitalized twice that summer.
On September 10, 2016, she entered the hospital again. She was put on a ventilator, and got a feeding tube. She underwent many procedures. She fought off pneumonia.
After stints in Yale’s pediatric, neurological and medical ICUs, she was moved to Gaylord Special Health Care Hospital in Wallingford. She was there from December until last month. On August 21, Meghan died.
But — as tragic as it is to lose someone so young — Meghan’s mother Sue wants to make sure her daughter’s life is remembered for its spirit, perseverance and love.
“She was extraordinary,” Sue says. “She never stopped smiling. She never complained or cried. She was resilient and strong. She was the most inspiring person I’ve ever known — and I said that even when she was a little girl.”
That’s not just a mom speaking.
Her wake in Westport was filled with Meghan’s admirers. Her kindergarten teacher came. So did the Gaylord staff, and her ambulance driver.
The director of a youth program at the Wilton YMCA spoke at the service. Meghan had been a counselor in training there for several years. The woman described the many lives Meghan touched.
“I never knew the impact she had on all those other kids,” Sue says. “She was a tiny thing, and quiet. But she was very fierce. Whenever a bar was set, Meghan rose above it.”
After her hospitalization last September, Meghan could not speak. She communicated by writing. But she never lost her sense of humor. Sue laughs as she remembers Meghan summoning a nurse. Meghan showed her a text she’d written — and translated into German.
Each day when Sue visited, she says, “Meghan wanted to know about my day. She never asked, ‘Why me?'”
Meghan’s bulldog Hoagie was the light of her life. He often visited other Gaylord patients. Sue promised her that Hoagie would be trained as a therapy dog.
Sue also promised her daughter that she would live life as she did.
“We all complain about the little things that happen every day,” Sue says.
“But she had such joy out of life. She loved Broadway shows, and the Italian food on Arthur Avenue. She had an incredible sense of humor, literally to the end of her life.
“She was an inspiration to a lot of people. And she truly was an inspiration to me.”
(Contributions in Meghan’s memory may be made to the Gaylord Specialty Health Care Hospital, 50 Gaylord Farm Road, Wallingford, CT, or the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, 8085 Saltsburg Road, Suite 201, Pittsburgh, PA 15239.)