Ready to deploy, reservist dies

April 11, 2003


A young soldier from the south suburbs died of a mysterious illness before
she could fulfill her dream of serving her country on the front lines.

Rachael A. Lacy, a 22-year-old Army reservist from Lynwood, became ill more
than a month ago after receiving several mandatory vaccinations--among them
anthrax and smallpox--before her deployment to the Middle East. She died
April 4.

"Rachael left home a healthy young woman, and she became sick shortly after
she received her inoculations,'' said her father, Moses Lacy, who buried
his daughter Wednesday in Lynwood.

An Army spokeswoman at Fort McCoy, Wis., where Lacy was based, said there
was no indication any of the vaccinations Lacy received were involved in
her death.

"But until the autopsy is done it's really hard to say," spokeswoman Linda
Fournier said. She said it would be a month before all autopsy results were

Lacy's father said she developed what doctors first thought was a cold or a
minor reaction to inoculations about five weeks ago. Her condition
worsened, she did not respond to treatment for pneumonia and doctors looked
further, even calling a specialist from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention in Atlanta.

"They were just guessing; they had no idea,'' Moses Lacy said.

He said when his daughter could not breathe unaided and had an extremely
high fever, weakness, headaches and nausea, she was taken from the military
hospital to hospitals in nearby Sparta and LaCrosse, Wis., then flown by
helicopter April 2 to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Rachael Lacy died there two days later. Her father said he was then told
she might have suffered from the immune disorder lupus, and her condition
could have been caused by the smallpox vaccination.

Rachael Lacy joined the Army Reserves in 1998 after graduating from
Thornton High School in Lansing. She was studying to become a nurse at
South Suburban College in South Holland and hoped to receive a master's
degree as well. A straight-A student, she had received state scholarships.
She was with the 452nd combat hospital support unit based in Fort McCoy.

She was a "fanatic" when it came to her health and she exercised regularly,
her father said. "All she kept telling me is, 'I want to get better because
I want to go with my unit.' I would like the 452nd unit to know that
although my daughter did not die in the battlefield in Asia, she gave her
life for her country that she loved, nonetheless," Moses Lacy said. "They
are soon to be deployed, and she will be with them in spirit."

Contributing: Brenda Warner Rotzoll

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