Funeral services are pending for Izabella Marie Helem of Lebanon, who was accidentally shot Thursday.
She passed away Tuesday morning after organ procurement. Eight children will benefit from donations from Izabella.
Izabella’s 3-year-old brother, Isaiah, accidentally shot her once while they were visiting their grandmother’s home in Lebanon, police said. The shooting occurred around 10 a.m. in the 300 block of North Park Street and is under police investigation.
Briana ‘Bre’ and Alonzo Helem were at work when their daughter was hurt. Bre is an active member of the United States Army and was on assignment driving to Fort Knox, Ky., when she received word of the accident.
The parents stayed at Indiana University Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis from the time of the accident until Tuesday morning after a walk through Riley in Izzy’s honor. A host of other family members were with them during that time.
The pain Alonzo and Bre feel is all encompassing. It is the pain of the event, the loss of a child, the judgement of national and social media and the inability to define their new life, Bre said.
“The national news has called my mother reckless and careless,” Bre said outside Izzy’s hospital room Monday. “They are blaming her for our daughter’s death. Other sources have portrayed us as irresponsible parents. I would like people to know a few things about our family.
“My mom is not a bad person, she is not reckless or careless. She loves our kids so much. This is devastating for her also. Our son is 3 years old. We are working to provide him with counseling. We need to help find a way for him to heal. This is a tragedy for some people, but it is our worst nightmare as parents. We love all our children.
“Misinformation and commentary seem to be making everything worse,” Bre said. “Many of the details being reported are not correct. What we need now is time. We need time to process the information correctly. We need time to heal. We need to allow the details to remain private while we work to help our children receive the necessary counseling and heal.”
This is Bre’s ninth year in the Army. Prior to enlisting, she was a reserve police officer with the Lebanon Police Department. She and Alonzo have been married nine years and have three children.
“Izzy is our middle child and has such a great relationship with her brother and sister (7-year-old Arianna),” Bre said. “She was the leader, she loved to tell them what to do and how to do it. She played with everyone and was so smart. She could count to 40, spell and write her name. She loved old-school music. She was always learning and sharing what she learned. She asked hundreds of questions every day.
“Alonzo is having a hard time processing this. He is in deep grief, as any father would be. He misses her so much and he is hurting because of all the little things he will not get to do with her, like he won’t get to hold her hand, play with her — but it is also the big things because now he will not get to walk her down the aisle. She was his whole world, his baby girl.”
Izzy celebrated her fourth birthday on Nov. 10. This year the family went bowling and enjoyed Minnie Mouse cupcakes together.
“November is birthday month,” Bre said. “All our kids were born in November. We celebrate with one big family party.
“Izzy wasn’t interested in bowling as much as the cupcakes. She licked the frosting off every one of the cupcakes. I would say ‘come bowl’ and she would smile with icing all over her face. She was a very happy child. She has always been our light.
“Izzy was full of energy, you could not be in a bad mood around her,” Bre said. “She wouldn’t allow for it. She is a beacon of light for our family. She came out ready to change the world. She is intelligent and thoughtful, she was always creating things. Coloring beautiful pictures, building stuff. She is special.”
In the midst of all the pain and tragedy, the Helem family decided the best way to honor Izzy’s life would be through organ donation.
“Izzy is donating her organs to eight children,” Bre said. “And while her body is no longer with us, her spirit will live on. She is no longer suffering and she has created miracles for other families. No family should ever feel the pain of losing a child.”
Izzy’s donations will be used for a 1-year-old in need of a heart transplant, as well as a toddler in need of a liver. Matches for the remaining organs were being reviewed Tuesday.
“I want to thank the Lebanon Police Department and emergency responders,” Bre said. “If they had not done such a good job on the scene, we would not have had the last few days with Izzy. We have been able to love on her and be with her. Additionally, these other families would not be receiving her gifts if they had not done such a good job. They did all they could do to help her and we are so thankful.”
On Saturday, doctors shared the tragic news with family that Izzy’s brain activity could no longer sustain life and began the conversation about organ donation.
“We are really hurting as a family, but we know she will always be with us,” Bre said. “God has her and she will live on with these other children. No family should ever experience this pain. If anything, I am glad we can help others. Izzy has always been a beacon of hope and help.”
“What do you call a parent who loses a child?” Bre asked. “If my husband dies, I am a widow. If my parent dies, I am an orphan ... how do we define this? These eight other families will not have to answer that question because of Izzy’s gift.”
Funeral services are being prepared by First Presbyterian Church Pastor Terri Thorn and will be held on Dec. 8. Updates will be made available as they are received.