AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin teenager Karinya Chen, well known after video of her bedside concert by musician Florence Welch — of the band Florence and the Machine — went viral, has died at age 15 after a six year battle with bone cancer.
Chen had a ticket to see the band when they played an Austin concert back in May, but she was too ill to attend. Hospice Austin organized the concert at Christopher House, where Chen was being treated. The four duets she sang with the lead singer went viral, with 1.5 million hits on YouTube.
Five days before her death on Oct. 1, Karinya granted an interview to KXAN. Her body was frail, described by her nurses as “skin and bones,” yet when asked how she was feeling that day, she called it an “on day” and said she felt “100 percent.”
“Honestly, I think the biggest thing is to not worry and fear,” Karinya said. “I tear up a little bit when I say that because it’s hard fighting and it’s a difficult thing every single day and just to get past every single day but you just have to remember that there’s always tomorrow and if you take it one day at a time and just tell yourself don’t worry and don’t take things for granted and tell yourself that you are loved and you are blessed then it makes it a lot easier to fight.”
Listening to her goals, a person might think she was like most other 15 year old girls.
“I want to complete my education, I want to graduate and go to college. This is for myself, I’m just saying what I would like to happen in the future for me,” she said.
She loved Polaroid cameras and the photos were all over her bedroom walls. She had an old record player, where a signed Florence and the Machine album played softly. In many ways, she was a typical teenager.
“I love eating and sleeping and reading and watching YouTube,” she said.
But she also knew there was no more treatment available for her. And at her very young age, along with her parents, she had to make a difficult decision.
“We’ve decided to just let God — give it to God. And just let Him take care of me,” Karinya explained through tears. “No matter what, if you just put your trust and your faith in Him, all will be well. And that’s my main message to everyone.”
Karinya was in the care of Hospice Austin for the last nine months of her life, twice admitted to Christopher House, but cared for at her home the remainder of the time.
“Hospice Austin. Oh my goodness, I cannot begin to describe what they’ve done for me,” Karinya said. “Their around the clock care and their nurses are amazing. You cannot find better nurses at any other hospital, I think. They’re just so kind and caring and genuinely care about you and you feel that love that they radiate with every single thing they do for you. I know it’s their job, but just the extent to which they reach their care is really astounding and I want to thank them.”
Hospice Austin’s Clinical Educator Lev Baesh was one of Karinya’s many caregivers.
“I think Hospice is really valuable for people who are suffering through their illness. But Karinya didn’t suffer through her illness very much. I think she was really just one of those kids who was able to kind of stand above it for much of the time,” said Baesh. “She was one of those young adults who knew what she needed and how she wanted us to take care of her, which made our work kind of easy and allowed us to provide for her what it was that she said she needed.”
Hospice Austin is a non-profit that provides end of life care for people in Central Texas from the very young to the very old. They provide specialized pediatric care, charity care for the poor, and uninsured and extensive bereavement programs.
Karinya Chen is survived by her parents and her 9-year-old brother, along with many other family members and friends from the Kirby Hall School.