Special Olympics athlete fighting for her life in Denver hospital

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DENVER — Jackie Pisano’s mother finds little things that make this cold hospital room feel more like home for her daughter.

“I brought Jackie’s backpack and her blanket,” her mother said, her eyes filling with tears. “I guess that makes her very comfortable. Having that blanket with her. That’s why I have it with me right now.”

Roxanne Pisano has admitted herself to the hospital, though she hasn’t tested positive for COVID-19 yet. But she is not allowed to leave the room where her daughter is recovering from two emergency surgeries as Jackie battles the disease.

“It is hard seeing her like that,” she said, pointing to her daughter, who is now on a ventilator. “You know she’s always very happy she’s always smiling. She is very very strong, and I know in my heart that she is trying very hard.”

This is not the first life-or-death battle that Jackie has fought. Just months after birth, she survived a major brain tumor. Now a teenager, she has fought off several relapses and spent months in the hospital. The surgeries leaving her developmentally challenged, but her mother says, she has overcome those as well.

“She is a cancer survivor. And then last year she got a scoliosis surgery. I guess everybody was very surprised how she recovered,” her mother said. “You know after that brain surgery she was awake in like 30 minutes and she was happy to see everyone.

Her drive to overcome life’s challenges, pushing her to succeed in the Special Olympics in Colorado as well. Now the president of the organization in the state reaching out with a special message of her own.

“I hope you can feel all the love we are surrounding you with by everyone in your special Olympics family,” said Megan Scremin, the president of Special Olympics Colorado. “The 15,000 athletes across the state, tens of thousands of volunteers staff and we’re all just sending you our well wishes and we cannot wait to see that beautiful smile again.”

For now, Jackie’s mother, family, and community are rallying around her as they wait for Jackie to return from this as well.

“I am just asking everyone to pray for my daughter,” said Jackie’s mom. “And for everyone that is sick. And for all these heroes.”