Business Technology

Sunday 21 September 2014

How one dad's heartbreaking Reddit request brought out the best in the internet

Claire Cohen

Published 16/07/2014 | 14:45

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The original Sophie picture

When Nathan Steffel asked Reddit users whether they could Photoshop a picture of his baby daughter Sophia, who had died in hospital aged six weeks and covered in tubes, he couldn't have predicted the overwhelming reponse

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When Nathan Steffel posted a message on social media site Reddit, he likely expected a handful of responses.

A sketch that a user drew

But his heartfelt post has touched thousands and prompted a worldwide outpouring of sympathy.

“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?" he wrote, posting a picture of tiny, newborn Sophia.

A painting of Sophie

In just two days, the post received 2,500 comments. It now has almost 3,000 – and climbing.

Many people just want to offer their condolences and explained how they'd cried reading the Steffel's story. Some have shared their own, similar, experiences. Hundreds have posted the requested Photoshopped image. There are digital painting, sketches - even pictures imaging baby Sophia outside the hospital environs where she spent her small life.

"I am reading this from the recovery room. Our baby is 23 hours old. I can't possibly imagine how you must feel," wrote one user.

Another painting that a user sent in

"I couldn't sleep without at least trying," said another.

The Steffel’s, from Ohio, lost Sophia to complications arising from a hepatic hemangioma – a tumour on her liver.

"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," wrote her father.

He and his wife have been overwhelmed by the public response and now plan to hang their favourite pictures. "Wow that is awesome. I showed my wife and she teared up. Thank you so very much," Steffel replied to one user.

“I didn't really want all the publicity, I just wanted a picture,” he told Today Parents website.

The couple have declined the many donations offered. Steffel told Reddit users that his wife is a bank teller and that her firm set up a benefit account to cover the cost of Sophia's funeral.

“My wife and I were so grateful so many people took the time out of their own lives to either send a nice message of sympathy or an awesome drawing," he said. "They couldn't have made this father any happier.”

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