Just beyond the beach where blue ocean meets blue sky, 12-year-old Sophia Nelson – whose favorite color was blue – lost her life last week from injuries she sustained Dec. 22 while crossing State Road A1A at a designated and flashing crosswalk near her Satellite Beach home.
Devastation over the Nelsons’ loss of their youngest child turned into hope for four other families as Sophia’s organs brought life to four other children awaiting transplants, said her dad Mark Nelson.
Her lungs, liver, kidneys and pancreas were passed on by Our Legacy at Orlando Health to four transplant surgeons who flew in from across the country to Arnold Palmer on Christmas Day. If her heart had been used, then only three lives could potentially have been saved, due to the nature of matching thoracic organs. Instead, doctors chose to donate her lungs to two Cystic Fibrosis patients and Sophia kept her heart.
Loved ones launched a “blue ribbon campaign” in the wake of Sophia’s death, prompting blue ribbons to be tied in Sophia’s honor all over Satellite Beach.
“We are overwhelmed that so many, from close friends to people we only know as anonymous faces in the supermarket, church and school, are going all out on this effort to show their love for Sophia as we begin down the long road grieving her loss,” Mark Nelson said.
Nelson said Sophia’s legacy – including reviewing safety measures at the crosswalks – will end up meaning so much to so many, he said.
“These tributes to Sophia’s memory give us hope there’s some momentum to build on, in terms of improving the education for using the crosswalks. Sophia potentially saved four lives with her healthy organs on Christmas,” he said. “What a blessing it would be, if we could help her further improve the world she left behind by fixing these crosswalks and making future deaths and injuries in them much less likely.”
Sophia will be missed in the sixth grade at Surfside Elementary School and at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church EDGE youth group. She was a regular at the Satellite Beach Recreation Center as a junior camp counselor. She sang, danced, created art, played violin in orchestra, and was in the chorus in a production of “Beauty and the Beast.”
Her quest to not be treated as the “baby” of the family and the thought of being excluded from an activity because of age “propelled her play skills and talents in art and music, instilled her instinct to include others no matter how different, and inspired a sense of wonderment, always curious about something new or ready with an insightful question,’’ Mark Nelson said.
The family was crossing the road together when Mark Nelson witnessed the tragedy that occurred at 5:37 p.m. at SR A1A at Ellwood Avenue, when a northbound car struck Sophia. Now he questions the configuration and effectiveness of the new FDOT crosswalks and pledges his support behind meaningful changes to make crossing the roadway safer.
“LED technology and reflective road paint and signs have provided a sense of added safety since (crosswalks first became popular 70 years ago), but there’s really no substitute for the old-fashioned STOP – LOOK – LISTEN method we learned as kids. Don’t roll the dice and walk in front of any moving car. Wait for it to either stop or pass safely by. They may be wrong in not stopping, but at least you’ll still be alive when they don’t,” he said.
Nelson said he supports petitions calling for a review of the crosswalks and wants Sophia’s memory at the forefront of better decisions for a safer design in the near future. A rally to call attention to the crosswalk safety issues was held Saturday afternoon.
“Sophia’s life was lost and people want action. I agree, a fix is needed. With all the Facebook posts, the blue ribbons, and Sophia’s memory, I believe we can implement a plan to fix the flaws by raising pedestrian awareness,” he said. “And I believe the county can design the new signs, pay for them with voluntary crowdfunding, and not spend one penny in taxes.
“I stand ready to help in any way I can, to give meaning and purpose to the killing of our beautiful girl this Christmas, so that others may live,” he said.