In the week after November 4 surgery, Belinda's mother, brother and friends stood vigil by her bedside. Avi posted updates on LA DEAD, a goth forum frequented by Belinda's friends. People sent prayers, positive energy, healing thoughts and white light her way. Many seemed surprised that Belinda - DJLuna - could be so sick, hovering so close to death. Wasn't this the girl who was at Tango lessons a few weeks ago? Posters planned to visit, wondered what gifts to bring her. Belinda would pull through, friends and family figured. After all, she was in a coma before, had liver failure before. She had woken up, before. This would be harder, it would take longer, but she would pull through. She always had.
Back at Belinda's small apartment, Avi and Sharon and Jonathan sorted through the disarray. A clutter-free apartment would help her heal, they figured. Avi found a music box he'd given Belinda when she was in the hospital a few months earlier: A small wooden box with a fairy painted atop. Her turned the crank. For a moment he was lost in thought:
"The tinny notes slowly eke out from the little box," Avi wrote in his LiveJournal on November 7. "By themselves, they seem disorganized, or random, or ... unfinished.
But I wait patiently, and they come together as a whole.
But wonderfully wistful ...
I put the box down, back on top of the night stand.
Your mother's voice returns to the foreground.
She's on the verge of tears and frustration and anguish.
And you're still far away.
I'm glad you liked my music box.
I know how much you love music, and I thought it would lift your spirits.
It lifted mine tonight ... if only for a brief, shining moment.
I'll bring it to you again to keep you company when I'm not there.
Until then ....
I'll wait for you to come out of your music box.
I'll keep turning the crank.
And so will your mom.
And so will your brother.
And so will everyone else who loves you.
The beeps and the clicks and the needles
Will fade into the background.
Your sad and beautiful music will come forth.
And this time
When reality returns
You'll come with it."
At the hospital, an electroencephalogram -- EEG -- monitored Belinda's brain stem activity. Legally blind, Sharon placed her face closely to the monitor looking for signs of life. "I was glued to the readout," she said. Small signs - blips and wiggles - encouraged Sharon, but doctors told her the signs were artifact from the ventilator. "Death" is not as evident as it once was. Now that medicine can maintain a body with a non-viable brain, the definition of death is the subject of ethical and medical debate.
Nevertheless, death has a legal definition: In California a person with an irreversible cessation of all functions of the brain - including the brain stem - is dead. One measure of total loss of brain stem activity is a flat EEG. Doctors disconnected Belinda's EEG on Thursday, November 8, 2007, according to Sharon. Doctors could use other tests for brain activity, she was told. "To me what it was saying is 'Well we're going write this one off,'" she said.