Arriving in style, 14-year-old Jerika Bolen in a stretch limo was escorted by first responders to her own personal prom in Appleton Friday night.
Jerika Bolen was diagnosed with type 2 spinal muscular atrophy when she was just 8 months old. The disease is rare, debilitating, incurable, and requires tens of surgeries just to manage the pain that comes with muscles atrophying.
After her 38th surgery a few months ago, Jerika decided she was done: “I sat myself down and I thought, ‘Jerika, am I here for me or am I here for my family? I can’t even do anything besides lie in bed because I’m so sore,'” she told the Washington Post. She and her mother “cried and we cried and we cried,” when Jerika made the decision: “But after a couple days, I was running around so happy. I was like, ‘I’m going to be able to walk, I’m going to be with God, I’m going to be free.'”
In August, she will stop using the ventilator she needs for 12 hours a day to stay alive, and die at home with her mom and two dogs. But tonight, she’ll party.
Though her turquoise prom dress is “girly,” she’s “going to have punky jewelry. Just to keep my punk soul with it.” She’ll wear her signature green lipstick, eat candy, and accept the title of prom queen among her friends, family, and anyone else around who’s read about Jerika and wants to participate in her big night. Prom will last from 7 p.m. to midnight at Appleton’s Grand Meridian hotel.
“I promised my child when it got to be too much I would be behind her no matter what,” her mother Jen wrote on a GoFundMe raising money not only for the party, but also for the medical care Jerika needs until she dies. “She wants one night of music and dancing and fun … After that she will come home and begin her journey to Heaven.”
“I know I can’t always be happy every day,” Jerika told the Post-Crescent. “I still wonder why God picked me to have this disease, and I know I can never know the reason. Maybe because I’m strong, I guess.”