Family, friends honor Raleigh teen brain dead after being caught in rip current

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Family and friends gathered at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville to honor Paige Merical’s life and gift. The Wake Forest teen is donating her organs and tissue Saturday. She died after being caught in rip currents in Emerald Isle last week.

John Merical and his wife, Suzi, called their daughter their miracle baby.

“We were blessed with this wonderful kid that kept us on our toes all the time, from the time she was 3 or 4 years old until last week,” John said.

Paige had gone to Emerald Isle with some friends for spring break.

Investigators said her and her friend, Ian Lewis, both Wake Forest High School seniors, were caught in rip currents. Ian drowned. Paige spent 14 minutes underwater.

“She was kind of the ultimate alpha female. She was the one they looked to for help and she was bright,” John said.

Paige spent the last week at Vidant Medical Center. The 17-year-old was declared brain dead Wednesday. Her parents knew what they needed to do.

“She couldn’t wait to get her regular drivers license so she could be listed as an organ donor,” John said.

Her family, friends, the hospital, and Carolina Donor Services came together to honor Paige. They raised a flag and turned the children’s hospital pink. That was Paige’s favorite color.

“More than 115,000 people are on a transplant list every year in the United States. There are more than 3,000 right here in North Carolina,” said Brian Floyd, the president of Vidant Medical Center.

John also took a moment to thank Paige’s friends. He said their support and love made the last week bareable.

As they grieve, they know Paige will live on, continuing to help others. 

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