Freshman Rachael Fiege wanted to become a nurse someday, just like her mother.
“She liked taking care of people,” her mother Angi Fiege said. “We always joked we’d work together.”
Rachael Fiege, a Zionsville High School graduate, had just moved into Wright Quad residence hall Monday.
She planned to apply for the IU nursing program, and she was already training for the IU club soccer team.
She couldn’t wait to rush, her best friend and IU freshman Mary Baluyut said. They planned to volunteer together and someday study abroad.
Her older brother Jeremy is a junior at IU, and she grew up as a Hoosier fan, Angi Fiege said.
“She was sitting there writing out all the things she wanted to do,” Angi Fiege said. “She was ready to roll.”
Rachael Fiege’s plans came to a sudden end Saturday morning, when her parents and doctors removed her from life support at IU Health Bloomington Hospital.
After falling down the stairs at a party, Rachael Fiege was found unresponsive Friday morning between 1 and 2 a.m. She was discovered quickly, but the other students present did not call Indiana University Police Department for six or seven hours.
Angi Fiege had just gotten off work as a physician in pulmonary and critical care at IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis when she got the call. A former nurse, she had been serving a patient on life support earlier that morning.
Two hours later, she would be by the ventilator once again – this time for her own daughter.
“It was a nightmare to live on the other side of that,” Angi Fiege said. “You can never feel the pain of being the parent of a child dying.”
While she was on the ventilator, Rachael Fiege’s parents placed a stuffed bear from her childhood in her lap.
Twenty girls from Fiege’s Zionsville high school soccer team left class Friday or drove from other colleges to say their goodbyes at IU Health Bloomington Hospital.
She was a defender on her high school soccer team, which won the sectional championship last year.
She was always known as “Fiege” by friends and teammates, Smythe said. She always pushed herself in soccer, and loved making wide runs up the field.
“She was ferocious,” said former teammate and IU sophomore Anne Smythe. “Pushing through sprints with her we’d all want to stop mid-practice and she’d be pushing us to go faster.”
She also helped coach younger soccer teams, and volunteered with a peer mentoring program for students with special needs, Angi Fiege said.
“Those kids loved her,” Angi Fiege said. “Her teachers loved her. That’s the kind of person she was.”
She was always extremely close with her family, Angi Fiege said. Her father is also a soccer coach, but he never coached his daughter’s teams.
“He knew better than to coach her,” Fiege said. “She was like his co-coach.”
Rachael Fiege and her mother had grown closer than ever while getting her ready to move in to IU, Angi Fiege said.
“We just talked and talked moving her down as if we wouldn’t have another conversation again,” Angi Fiege said. “It turned out it was true.”
Rachael Fiege was a dedicated student and player, but she always knew when comic relief was necessary, Smythe said.
“She was definitely very strong, and just goofy,” Smythe said.
IU freshman Annie Smith played soccer with Fiege for years, and attended an IU soccer camp with her in middle school. She remembers hiding in the Briscoe dorms together, making funny faces into their cameras.
“We could start laughing and not stop for hours,” Smith said. “People always said how funny she was. She had a crazy personality. I don’t think there were many people that didn’t like her.”
Some of Smith’s favorite memories with Rachael Fiege were the sleepovers they had together in middle school.
“She had Bratz dolls,” Smith said. “For some reason, we found it entertaining to play with them, but we didn’t tell people.”
Smith had lost touch with Rachael Fiege, her best friend since elementary school, after she moved high schools. By chance, Smith ran into Fiege on campus two days before her death. It was the first time the friends had seen each other in two years.
“I honestly think it was so we could say goodbye,” Smith said. “She was really excited about going to school. We were finally back in the same place.”
Within hours of her death, it seemed as if the entire town of Zionsville had heard the news, Angi Fiege said. Several flags in town flew at half-mast.
Her high school soccer team posted a Facebook message mourning her death. Friends, family and people Rachael Fiege didn’t even know were Tweeting about her, using hashtags including #zionsvillestrong.
They grew up in a town with one high school, where everybody knows everybody, Smythe said.
“When anything happens in Zionsville, our entire community backs each other up,” she said.
Even after graduating high school, Smythe and Baluyut said they kept a close bond between their soccer teammates, and they all plan to sign their names on Fiege’s arm prior to her burial.
About one-fourth of her Zionsville graduating class attends IU, Baluyut said. Everyone is shaken up by her death, she said, but it has given the freshman class a new perspective.
“I appreciate the chance I’m getting now,” Baluyut said. “It makes me more thankful that I’m here. I’m going to experience it through her.”
Rachael Fiege’s mother said her daughter’s death has given her a new outlook on her work as a doctor.
“Hopefully this will give me the right words to say to people because I’ve sat in their chair,” Angi Fiege said.
She hopes to start a fund in her daughter’s name in order to help other families going through similar tough times, she said.
Rachael Fiege is also helping others through her death. Fiege donated her liver, kidneys, aorta and heart valve, her mom said.
Because of the cardiac arrest that occurred after her head injuries, her other organs were too vulnerable to donate, Angi Fiege said.
“She would’ve given her whole body if she could,” Fiege said. “She even took care of people in the end.”
Follow reporter Samantha Schmidt on Twitter @schmidtsam7