18-year-old dies weeks after collapsing at her high school graduation

Sienna Stewart, a Georgia teen who walked the stage after collapsing during her high school graduation, had been diagnosed with heart failure.

Sienna Stewart, heart health, heart transplant, Black health and wellness, graduation season, theGrio.com
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An 18-year-old in Georgia who suffered from heart complications died weeks after she collapsed during her high school graduation.

Her mother, Saevon Chum, told Fox 5 Atlanta she remained proud of her daughter, Sienna Stewart, for how hard she fought.

“As a mom, you feel so proud because she just fought through something that hurts her. You have to be proud. Till the end, I was proud,” she said.

Stewart graduated from Hiram High School in Hiram, Georgia, on Thursday, May 23. Midway through the ceremony, school officials announced that they needed to pause the proceedings due to an emergency with a student. Stewart had collapsed and briefly slipped into unconsciousness. After paramedics revived her, they wanted to take her to the hospital, but Stewart begged her mother to let her walk across the stage.

“All she could tell me is, ‘I just want to graduate, I want to walk.’ That’s all she wanted because she already missed her prom because before then, she was in the hospital and missed her senior prom,” Chum told the outlet.

Stewart was the last student to walk across the stage, receiving a standing ovation from her peers and those in attendance.

“Seeing her smiling was everything,” Chum said of her daughter, whose smile shone brightly as she accepted her diploma.

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Stewart was diagnosed with severe cardiomyopathy (a term for any disorder that impacts the heart muscle) at age 4 and received a heart transplant at the age of 8, which allowed her to live a “relatively normal life for 10 years,” her mother explained. Then, sadly, things began to take a turn, and Stewart’s heart started getting weaker and slowing down. In April, weeks before graduation, the teen was diagnosed with heart failure. She had experienced what her mother referred to as “episodes” when she would collapse, but up until her graduation ceremony, Stewart hadn’t fallen fully unconscious. She collapsed again two weeks after her graduation and later died on June 12, days after she was hospitalized. 

“She was a tough cookie ever since she was little. She was just so tough. She was just strength and resilience. She was just so strong,” her mother said.

An obituary for Stewart noted that she was a Gemini born on June 3, the youngest of three siblings, and had an undeniable fashion sense. She was college-bound in the fall to study sonogram tech; however, she had already launched her own brand named Trust Me Si, where her creativity and style got to shine through hoodies, T-shirts, and more.

Stewart will be remembered for having a contagious presence, unexpected jokes, dark humor, and an “upbeat, enthused tone of voice that uplifts your spirits instantly.” 

Stewart’s sister, Essence Stewart, has organized a GoFundMe for the family, which has already netted over $9,000 of the $10,000 they seek.