Mark and Deborah O’Leary

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November 10, 2012 was a pretty ordinary day for most. It was a Saturday, so many were were planning and enjoying recreational activities, and birthday parties. The world was focused on Middle East conflicts, and the aftermath of a close election. Yet the world would turn today in such a way that many lives would never be the same.

Mark woke up and prepared to go to work. His wife Debbie struggled through the night dealing with her asthma, a task she was all too familiar with. This morning, however, it was particularly bad, and Mark was worried. He asked his wife if she needed to go to the Emergency Room. She reassured him that she had it under control. Yet even still he was worried. His oldest daughter happened to sleep over the night before, so he woke her up and asked her to keep an eye on her mother and to call him if she got worse.


The next couple of hours passed quickly. Her daughter helped her with more breathing treatments, but she was not getting better. A phone call was made to Mark telling him of her condition. He said he was on his way. Moments later, Debbie deteriorated, finally collapsing in her daughter’s arms. Her daughter called 911. As the 911 operator was coaching Debbie’s daughter in how to best care for her mom, Mark arrived. He immediately started CPR, the operator coaching him to the pace of chest compressions required to save his wife’s life. His daughter noticed the strain on her dad’s face as he struggled to keep pace, his recent heart attack obviously taking its toll. The paramedics arrived and took over CPR for Mark, who was so weary by now that he crawled away on his hands and knees. He made it only a few feet before collapsing forward and falling into what appeared to be a deep sleep. The paramedics needed him to move so they could better attend his wife. They asked his daughter to wake him and make him move. She tried her best, but he didn’t respond. One of the medics looked over and noticed that this was not sleep; he was having a seizure. They divided their medical resources and began rendering care to their new patient.

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Mark arrived at the Emergency Room first, with Debbie close behind. Debbie by now had a pulse, but required mechanical ventilation to breath. It soon became evident that there was nothing more the medical community could do for Mark beside allow him to pass from this life. The emergency room physician broke the news to his family. He was declared a hero for giving his life to save his wife—who was now in a coma on life support.

The next week bore many days and nights waiting in a room outside of the intensive care unit. So many doctors, nurses, and tests it was hard to keep track of them all. One of the tests, an EEG, revealed that Debbie was brain dead. On November 8th, Debbie’s daughters decided to make their mom a hero too. They allowed her organs to be taken from her to give life to others in desperate need.

At 24, 22, 20, and 11, Mark and Debbie’s children have faced many decisions they should have never had to face. Decisions of when to let their loved ones pass and what to do next. Making funeral arrangements for not only one parent, but two. Who will care for their parent’s 11 year old son, their brother? What about the mountain of medical bills their parents left behind? How do they pay for the funeral?


The children need your help and you can help in two ways. The first is to leave a note for them in the guestbook section. If Mark and Debbie mattered to you, let the children know how. Otherwise leave a note of encouragement. Your words can bring great comfort in a time of need. The other is to help them financially. A fund to help with funeral costs, medical bills as well as the ongoing expenses of raising an 11 year old little brother has been set up at Wells Fargo. See the donation page for full information on how you can contribute.

Mark and Debbie were deeply loved, and they deeply loved each other. They mattered to many and will be deeply missed.

Read the article on The Press-Enterprise.
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We need your help.

Or make a donation to the The Mark and Deborah O’Leary Memorial Fund at
Wells Fargo, Account #9790919683.

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