Hundreds of mourners flooded the St. Jude Catholic Church at 21689 Toledo Road in Boca Raton on Wednesday to bid a final farewell to Stephanie Kuleba, 18, high school cheerleader with a promising future who died from complications during breast surgery. She had gone in for cosmetic surgery on Friday, March 21, to correct an inverted nipple and asymmetrical breasts — a procedure that involves implants.
With her long blond hair and shy smile, Kuleba charmed people from an early age, friends said. A talented athlete, her path toward cheerleading began with competitive gymnastics. Kuleba had brains to match her beauty, friends said, earning a GPA above 4.0, acing advanced placement courses. She was a captain of her high school cheerleading squad, and a soon-to-be pre-med freshman at the University of Florida.
Doctors believe the cause of death was malignant hyperthermia, a relatively rare metabolic condition that can be triggered by certain anesthesia. A patient’s heart rate and metabolism rises, causing the body temperature to rise as high as 112 degrees.
About an hour and 45 minutes after Kuleba went into the surgical suite, Dr. Steven Schuster came out to tell her mother that there had been an emergency and paramedics had been called to take the girl to nearby Delray Medical Center, where she died 24 hours later, Saturday, March 22, 2008.
They never thought a relatively minor procedure would took away their lovely Kuleba’s life. Kuleba’s coffin was draped with a white cloth and a purple sash, and her grief-stricken family was led into St. Jude Catholic Church in Boca Raton to the hymn, “You Are Mine.”
“She was a role model for a lot of people,” said friend and classmate Vicky Goldring, 16. “She was incredibly smart. She wanted to help people. She was just a happy 18-year-old girl.”
Kuleba was beloved by classmates at West Boca High, more than 400 of whom gathered outside the school Sunday night for a candlelight vigil. They hung Kuleba’s shining silver pompons and cheerleading T-shirt on the fence outside the school and left flowers, pictures and handwritten notes beneath the display.
Organizers charged $1 for each candle at the vigil – money that will be given to Kuleba’s family for expenses.
“It’s hard to believe she’s gone,” said classmate Vanessa Villegas 16. “She just made everybody’s day by having a good attitude about life. Today was a hard day for a lot of people.”
Online guest book was set up for anyone who wanted to bid a final farewell to Stephanie Kuleba.
“Steph, you were such a great girl, every time I saw you you were smiling, heaven will be happy to have someone so special,” wrote Lauren Golem (boca raton, FL)
“Dearest Kuleba Family, When I heard the tragic news about your beautiful daughter, the pain in my heart was all to familiar. My 21 year old daughter was killed in a tragic car accident in 2005 while attending the University of South Florida. She too was the capt. of the cheerleading squad while in H.S. and was a dancer for the Sundolls at U.S.F. Their is not a day that goes by that my heart is not filled with the memory of her smile and laughter, yet, by the grace of God, the tears have lessened and I can finally smile again. I know that is what she would have wanted. Please know that you are not alone, and if their is ever a time that you need to reach out to someone who has experienced that pain, I am here. God Bless your family. You will be in my thoughts and prayers everyday,” wrote Gwen Lewis (FL)
“Stephanie was a leader, a cheerleader and all those wonderful things. She belongs to that same family we all belong to — to God. Her sufferings in this world are over. It’s difficult for us to understand God, his plan and what he has in store,” the priest said, though he did not know her personally.
Tags: Cosmetic Surgery, Stephanie Kuleba