Choosing death over more pain, Wisconsin teen plans her 'last dance'


Jerika Bolen wants to have one last dance before she dies.

The 14-year-old from Wisconsin has type II spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a neurological disease that can not be cured, and will eventually cause Bolen to lose control of her muscles and die.

After suffering with the disease – and the immense pain that comes with it – for her whole life, Bolen made the decision to go into hospice, stop receiving life-saving treatment, and die on her own terms.

"She has let me know now that she needs to be free of her broken body," her mom said on a GoFundMe page.


Bolen also asked for a prom – one last night of fun, including a disco ball, while surrounded by friends she has been unable to see for a while.

J's Last Dance will take place Friday night in Appleton, Wisconsin. It is free to attend.

"After that she will come home and begin her journey to Heaven," the GoFundMe post says.

According to the Washington Post, Bolen has had surgeries to place rods in her back and remove most of her hip bones. She is often in serious pain.

Bolen said she'll turn off the defibrillator that's keeping her alive in August. The alternative would be keeping it on, but she would end up losing the ability to use her hands and speak, and would eventually die after more surgeries, the Washington Post explains.


What is SMA?

According to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, SMA affects the part of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement.

Muscles aren't receiving signals from nerve cells, which makes them atrophy over time due to not being active.

Symptoms include weakness in voluntary muscles that are closest to the center of the body, like shoulders, hips and upper back, which can cause complications for actions like swallowing and breathing.

The later the symptoms begin, the milder the disease is likely to be. Infants diagnosed with SMA used to not survive more than two years, but that has recently changed.

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