In late January, Karen Stiltner (second from left) and Ron Stiltner (far back, right), along with a team of volunteers, delivered 65 blankets and 60 bags of toiletries to the UMMC PICU, continuing a project started by their late daughter, Amy Huber.
Pasadena Mother Turns Grief Into Love After Double Tragedy
When Karen Stiltner saw her daughter, Amy Huber, cradle her newborn, London Brielle, in early November 2015, she knew exactly what her daughter was experiencing. They each had a healthy son and a daughter, and both believed their lives were perfect.
“Amy was a terrific kid,” said Karen, “a real joy to be around.”
Amy graduated from Chesapeake High School, where she played field hockey and swam for the Severna Park YMCA swim team, known as SPY, before heading to York College in Pennsylvania, where she would meet her future husband, Scott Huber. The young Huber family welcomed a son Brayden in 2014, and a daughter, London Brielle, in late 2015.
“She was as happy as any mother could be,” said Karen of her daughter, Amy. “She had two beautiful kids and thought her family was complete, perfect. As a mother, that’s all you want for your kids. Amy was one of the happiest moms I’ve ever met. She was just glowing.
“I’d say to her, ‘You’re the best mom,’” said Karen, to which Amy would reply, “No! You’re better!”
“And I would tell her, ‘No, I was good, but you’re better,’” Karen recalled. The two women would giggle in their back and forth banter.
Amy’s keen motherly instincts kicked in Friday, January 22, 2016, when she noticed her infant daughter wasn’t feeling well. With a rare Maryland snowstorm in full swing, Amy and London were able to reach the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. Although the “tremendous staff worked very hard and did everything they could for London,” according to Karen, the infant succumbed to the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and was taken off life support by Monday, January 25.
Forever the optimist, Amy devoted her time to Brayden and Scott, devising ways to ensure she could in some small way lessen that devastation for the next mother or couple.
“Amy started coming up with ideas on how to give back to the PICU and to support other parents almost immediately,” said Karen. “She had been given a fleece blanket for London made by the South River High School girls field hockey team, and she treasured that blanket. So, she knew she wanted to do that.
“And we started thinking about all of the things we could have used in the hospital: toiletries, a puzzle book, a toothbrush and even something for a headache,” added Karen. “Before long, she has a pretty clear vision of what she wanted to do, and London’s Legacy was created.”
For the next 11 months, Amy and Karen collected modest donations from family and friends, and they purchased items in bulk at discount stores and fleece material on sale and with coupons. Because the PICU can accommodate up to 60 children, Amy set a goal of 60 blankets and 60 backpacks of personal items to be ready for delivery on January 25, 2017, the one-year anniversary of her beloved London’s death.
As the anniversary approached, Amy posted the following message on the “London’s Legacy” Facebook page on January 12, 2017:
“I would like this to be a day to be comfortable, filled with stories, laughter, and making memories together as we come together to share this special day not only for my sweet Londy Lou but also for us to enjoy each other and be a part of something that I hope will create a lifelong tradition in helping others that truly need the love and support that I know all of us have to give. If there is one thing I have learned this past year it is that life should not be taken for granted and it is the small things in life that should be cherished the most. I have to believe that everything happens for a reason even if I don’t understand it at the moment.”
On January 14, 2017, at 8:11pm, Amy made her last post on the “London’s Legacy” page. “Hey Everyone. I am trying to get a head count so if you plan or coming next Saturday please let me know and also what you plan to bring to share to eat. Thanks!”
The following day, Sunday, January 15, at 3:30pm, Amy Stiltner Huber died in her sleep from heart failure at the age of 30.
“I knew she was broken inside,” said Karen. “She did everything she could to recover from the loss of her precious London. I truly believe she died of a broken heart.”
Surrounded by family and friends, Karen took over her daughter’s role in managing the scheduled blanket and backpack delivery. “We put Amy to rest on Friday, January 20, and on Saturday, we got together and finished her life’s work. There was no way we were not going to finish this for Amy.”
On Wednesday, January 25, Karen and Ron Stiltner, Scott Huber and his parents, Karen and Steve Huber, delivered 65 blankets and 60 bags to the University of Maryland Medical Center PICU, just as Amy had planned.
There were tears of joy and sadness as the staff vividly remembered Amy, Karen and London, and were stunned by the news of Amy’s sudden and unexpected passing.
Karen plans to continue London’s Legacy for Amy. She plans to deliver more blankets and bags to the hospital on April 21, which would have been Amy’s 31st birthday. In that delivery will be 14 blankets handmade by Ashleigh Wyble and 11 family and friends. Ashleigh’s own infant daughter, Ellie, died in late 2016.
“The parallels [between Amy and Scott] to Matt and I are too obvious to ignore,” said Ashleigh. “Amy and I were part of a club that no one wants to belong to. I could tell she had the resolve to move forward and make something positive from her experience.
“I wanted to take the sense of community that we were graciously shown after Ellie passed, and pay it forward to the Huber and Stiltner families.”
Karen has no plans to slow down without Amy.
“I will not let Amy down,” said Karen. “I am going to continue London’s Legacy with the same energy that Amy had.”
Monetary donations to London’s Legacy can be made by check to London’s Legacy, c/o Karen Stiltner, 244 Kentucky Avenue, Pasadena, MD 21122, or contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org to request an inventory list of needed items.