According to the New York Daily News on Wednesday, just days after his infant daughter's death, grieving father Nathen Steffel wanted only one thing, and he asked strangers online for it. He and his wife wanted a photo of their 6-week-old daughter without the breathing tubes and tape that masked her little face for her entire life. Sophia had spent all her life in a Cincinnati hospital waiting for a transplant, but she died from a liver tumor last Thursday.
The only picture Sophia's parents had of her was one the breathing tubes in her mouth and on her wrists. They had never seen her without them. At first the mourning father was reluctant to make such a request because he thought people would respond in a rude manner and make him feel worse than he already felt. However, he took a chance and posted a message on Reddit asking if anyone could Photoshop the IVs and medical devices out of the only picture he had of Sophia. His request was a simple one: "My daughter recently passed away after a long battle in the children's hospital. Since she was in the hospital her whole life, we never were able to get a photo without all her tubes. Can someone remove the tubes from this photo?"
The response from strangers was overwhelming, according to USA Today. Steffel, his wife, Emily, and two sons received hundreds of photos, sketches and paintings have poured into the family's northwestern Ohio home and their inbox of pictures without the tubes. Steffel said, "I'm getting messages in languages from all over the world. It's more than I can count." Steffel said his family now has more memories of their daughter than they could have imagined. This is helping them with the grieving process.
It all started with one picture and turned out to be thousands of messages expressing support and hundreds of photos. David Valdez, a college student from New Braunfels, Texas who has been painting portraits for several years, made a digital painting of Sophia within a few hours of seeing her father's message. Someone else is sending a woven blanket with Sophia's picture. Watch the video above to see some of the photos that were submitted.
In just three days, Steffel's post racked up more than 2,800 comments and dozens of artists' renditions of Sophia. Redditors removed the baby girl's tubes, Photoshopped her out of the hospital. There were black and white sketches, line drawings and dreamy watercolor-like works. At least one person offered to mail him a physical painting of his beloved daughter.
Steffel was overwhelmed. He commented later, "All I wanted was a nice picture. What I received was a lot of love and support from a bunch of strangers."