Strapped to the front seat of an ambulance with her daughter injured in the back, Kaye Steinsapir pulled out her phone and started typing.
“Please. Please. Please,” she wrote in part. “Everyone PRAY for my daughter Molly. She had an accident and suffered a head injury. Later that day, at Ronald Reagan Medical Center UCLA, she tweeted his message.
Her daughter, 12, was injured while riding a bike with a friend near the family home in Los Angeles. Ms Steinsapir, 43, said she was looking for a tool that could quickly bring her advocacy to as wide an audience as possible.
“I was so helpless,” she said in an interview Thursday. “I just wanted to broadcast to anyone who could lift Molly in prayer and could lift me up in prayer as well.
Covid-era hospital rules initially prevented her and her husband, Jonathan Steinsapir, from being at Molly’s bedside together. On the first day of hospitalization, Mr Steinsapir spent the days with their two sons at home, while Ms Steinsapir stayed with their daughter in the intensive care unit.
“In the hospital, there were so many hours of waiting, waiting, waiting and nothing to do,” she said. In the darkest moments of panic or uncertainty, she contacted the internet. “So many people have shared stories of surviving after a head injury,” said Ms Steinsapir, who is a lawyer, along with her husband.
“The hope that all these foreigners gave us is what sustained us. If we didn’t have that hope, I don’t know how we could have done what we needed to do, raise Molly and raise our boys, ”she says.
She didn’t have much experience on Twitter. Like many parents, she had shared family photos to a small circle on Facebook and Instagram, but in the months leading up to the last presidential election, she started spending more time on Twitter, following news sources. and politicians. She barely knew how to tweet.
As she turned to her phone to express her determination, anguish and fear, it never occurred to her that she would strike up a 16-day conversation between thousands of strangers around the world about life, la death, family, religion and ritual.
Alana nichols, a doctor and lawyer in Birmingham, Ala., checked in on Ms Steinsapir every day. “As a mother, I was drawn to her vulnerability and strength, and how she managed to transform Twitter into a positive tool of connection and hope,” she said.
This year, Dr Nichols said, the election, reactions to the latest Black Lives Matter movement and the pandemic have turned the internet into a market of anger and vitriol.
“Social media can be so toxic and the phenomenon of doomscrolling can put you in this place of utter helplessness,” she said. “But Kaye gave us a way to help. She told us that we could pray for her and her daughter. Our nation is divided over everything that is going on right now and here you have yet another tragedy – but it has had the opposite effect.
The coronavirus pandemic has left Americans grappling with the colliding forces of isolation and heartbreak, with technology and social media increasingly becoming entangled in death rituals. Farewell to Covid is regularly made via FaceTime, with hospital staff using phones and tablets to help family members get closer to bedside vigils and final farewells.
Broadway actor Nick Cordero fell ill with coronavirus in March and was hospitalized for months before dying in July. Amanda Kloots, his wife, drew a worldwide online audience of millions of people who prayed, sang, exalted and finally cried with her. “I just wanted to share because grieving is important to talk about, especially at a time when a lot of people are grieving,” she said in a video.
Later last year, model and actress Chrissy Teigen created a national dialogue about the comfort of our culture with the public sharing of death and tragedy when she posted hospital photos taken from her home on Instagram. ‘her, her husband John Legend and their prematurely born baby Jack. And died.
“I can’t express how little I care that you hate photos,” Ms. Teigen wrote in an essay later that month. “I don’t care if it’s something you didn’t do.” I lived it, I chose to do it, and more than anything, these photos are not meant for anyone but people who have been through it or who are curious enough to wonder what something like this looks like. These photos are only intended for people who need them. “
Laurie Kilmartin, writer for “Conan,” tweeted live her mother’s last days before dying of complications from the coronavirus in June. Ms Kilmartin had tweeted about her father’s deterioration and death from lung cancer in 2014 and felt even more motivated to do so while her mother was dying, due to the combination of grief and isolation. “What’s so horrible about Covid is that you are completely alone,” she says. “All you have is your phone.”
Ms Kilmartin followed Ms Steinsapir’s story on Twitter and understood from her own experiences the desire to share in real time. “In a normal situation, there would be 20 family members on rotation to support her and her husband,” Ms. Kilmartin said. “I’m glad she had the internet to hold her hand.”
Ms Steinsapir also explained to her supporters why she was letting strangers participate in the experiment. “Writing and sharing my pain helps to alleviate it”, she says wrote. “When I sit here in this barren room hour after hour, your messages of hope make me feel less alone. Even my husband, who is very private, likes to read them.
In what has become a diary, Ms Steinsapir provided an unvarnished description of the realities of witnessing a medical crisis, marked by endless hours of waiting for her daughter to wake up, which are then punctuated by sudden calamity. .
She praised her daughter’s doctors and nurses, worried about her two young sons, Nate and Eli, and told the internet all about her daughter, an environmentalist and animal lover who chose to being a vegetarian before going to kindergarten, who was devoted to Judaism and feminism (she used the pronouns “she / she” for God) and who dreamed of being a stage actress and politician.
Like Ms. Teigen, Ms. Steinsapir shunned people who criticized her. “Believe me, I would like to do something other than desperately ask for prayers to save my daughter on Twitter,” she replied.
Most importantly, she called for support through prayer. The focus on God was part of what Melissa Jones, a mother from Locust Grove, Georgia, to read every tweet and respond, even befriending others who followed closely.
“The faith she hit me,” said Ms. Jones, who cried as she spoke of a family she said she fell in love with. “The internet is a horrible place right now, the Trump years have been very confrontational and people have been so ugly for the past four years, but Molly’s spirit has brought out people’s faith and kindness.
Ms Jones had also faced the possibility of losing a child when her son was seriously injured. “My son was in a coma for 11 days and I had this experience of asking myself, ‘Is my child going to wake up and am I going to find them? I knew exactly where Kaye was, ”she said.
On February 15, Ms Steinsapir announced that Molly had passed away.
“As our hearts are broken in a way that feels like they can never be mended, we take comfort in knowing that Molly’s 12 years have been filled with love and joy. We are extremely fortunate to be her parents, ”she wrote.
She agreed to speak to a reporter in the midst of grieving her family, she said, because Molly would like her to console the millions of Americans who lost loved ones last year.
“I want to communicate to people that we honor all who are grieving and that we want to share with them the light and the love that was shown to Molly,” she said.