SALT LAKE CITY — After a week of emotion that drew prayers from around the world and a family vigil at the bedside of 3-year-old Elsie Mahe, the daughter of BYU running back coach Reno Mahe died at Primary Children’s Hospital early Tuesday evening.
Elsie was flown by medical helicopter last Tuesday from her home in Lehi after a choking accident caused by a mini-blind cord. For the past week, the family called upon friends, family and strangers to join in fasting and prayer for her recovery. Over the weekend, tests by doctors indicated a lack of oxygen to her brain left her neurologically unable to recover; that she was brain dead, according to Sunny Mahe.
“We feel peace and we are again so grateful for the privilege of being Elsie’s parents,” wrote Sunny Tuesday on a Mahe family update page on Facebook. “She continues to sprinkle love and hope across the world and I am in awe of the Lord and His marvelous plan for my sweet girl.”
During the long Thanksgiving weekend, Elsie's story impacted many people, and Sunny and Reno frequently thanked the public for their outpouring of love and prayers.
“This sweet girl has touched so many people in a tender way,” said her uncle, Joel Tuialeva. “It is comforting that we have faith in where she is at this time, and I know Reno and Sunny will be reunited with their lovely daughter someday.”
Sunny was in her kitchen doing dishes when Elsie’s friend ran in and told her Elsie was in trouble. Sunny, a former volleyball star at BYU, administered CPR to her daughter as a sibling called emergency personnel who arrived within minutes.
Elsie’s tragedy prompted “Team Elsie” prayers all across the state and attention nationally from those familiar with the Tongan family. This past weekend the Mahe family, which had been looking for a miracle recovery, felt the incident had turned from a miracle for Elsie into a “miracle from Elsie” and prepared paperwork to donate her organs for others in need.
“We will be working closely with the donation team for the next couple of days, so we have a few days to postpone making funeral plans,” wrote Sunny on the Facebook page.
Both Reno and Sunny were at bedside with Elsie when she passed.
The Mahe family has received a flood support that included donations to a GoFundme account set up in her name. Hospital visits came from both BYU and University of Utah coaches. Gov. Gary Herbert and BYU President Kevin Worthen were among bedside visitors to comfort Sunny and Reno, according to family friends. Members of the Polynesian community frequently visited hospital facilities to help comfort the family.
“So sad to hear about the passing of Elsie Mahe,” tweeted BYU sophomore quarterback Tanner Mangum. “Love and prayers to the Mahe family. Some of the nicest people you’ll meet.”