Father's plea to Reddit: photoshop my baby

LUCY CORMACK
Last updated 14:07 16/07/2014

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A US father, grieving at the death of his newborn baby, has turned to Reddit in search of someone to photoshop her image.

When Nathan Steffel's daughter Sophia died from a liver condition after a six-week battle in hospital, he posted a photo and a request to the social media forum.

"Photoshop Request: 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?"

After two days, the post had received almost 2500 comments and hundreds of photoshopped versions of the image with the tubes removed, with varying backgrounds and colour corrections.

In a Reddit post, Mr Steffel, from Ohio, said Sophia had a hepatic hemangioma, the most common benign tumour to affect the liver. She died on July 10.

"She was on the waiting list for her liver when she passed from complications involving the pressure on her abdomen due to the hemangioma. She was six weeks old," he wrote. It is unclear if Sophia was waiting for a transplant.

He said Sophia was originally at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus but had been moved to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre because of the number of liver experts on staff.

The grassroots campaign has ignited a strong and emotional reaction from Reddit users, many of whom have shared their own stories of loss as well as uploading a photoshopped image of Sophia.

"I'd never thought about this. I went through a similar situation, my daughter passed away 5 hours after birth in February of 2013. Not a day goes by that I don't think about her. You've got my support if you ever need it," wrote Howee123.

Mr Steffel responded to many of the submitted photos and condolences, saying how touched he was by the response, but declined offers for money donations.

"Thanks for the generous offer but no thanks we are not looking for money. I just wanted a picture and what I received was a lot of wonderful drawings and pictures. I couldn't be happier," he wrote.

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He said a benefit fund had been set up at Huntington bank, which generated enough to cover the cost of Sophia's funeral service.

One Australian volunteer organisation that has recognised the need to assist families in preserving the memory of loved ones is the photographic initiative Heartfelt.

An organisation of approximately 200 professional photographers across Australia, Heartfelt is dedicated to capturing the memory of stillborns, premature and ill infants.

Heartfelt president Gavin Blue said the service existed to help families "facing the unimaginable".

"Most of our members have had some sort of experience with loss. My wife and I lost a child in 2006," he said.

"As a photographer I thought that with my connections in the industry I could make a difference."

With Heartfelt currently seeing to approximately 100 families a month, Mr Blue says the service is more important than ever.

"Stillbirths especially are still such a social taboo," he said.

"Families can't share their grief and photos can often be quite confronting, whereas we can produce a beautiful image that they can share. When you share grief, you can work though it more easily."

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