Janice Claire Jendrynski-Rosser fulfilled a lifelong dream to see Africa and help some its people when she went to Mali in September as part of a Baptist missionary program.
The dream wound up killing her.
Ms. Jendrynski-Rosser died Wednesday of malaria contracted during the three and a half month trip.
The 22-year-old Clearwater High School graduate returned home last month, happy from her experiences teaching English and music, her family said. When she felt sick she thought she had flu.
"She called Jan. 24 and said she hadn't been to see me because she had the flu," said her aunt, Clearwater lawyer Dolores Jendrynski. Her niece was diagnosed with malaria and hospitalized Jan. 30, Ms. Jendrynski said.
David Rosser said Wednesday that a team of doctors at Morton Plant Hospital worked two weeks to try to save his daughter.
"I still can't believe she's gone," he said, swallowing hard to fight back the tears. "You can't put your children in a box. I know life has its risks but, yes, I would put myself in her place if I could."
Rosser, who is executive director of the Morton Plant foundation, said he and his wife, Pat, took the orphaned "Jan" into their home when she was 15. At her request, the couple formally adopted her before she left for Africa.
"We believe that she was a gift from God that he gave us for seven and a half years," Mrs. Rosser said. "Our life was richly blessed because we had her."
Although there is no vaccine for malaria, there are preventive drugs. A person planning to travel in a country where malaria is prevalent usually takes the medication before, during and after the trip, said Dr. John Heilman, director of the Pinellas County Health Department.
"She took the medication before the trip and while she was there," Mrs. Rosser said.
The "black water" form of the disease that she had is particularly virulent and resistant to some of the drugs, Rosser said.
"Clearly, the case is unusual," Heilman said Wednesday. "It is unusual (for an American to contract) the disease, let alone to die from it. It is highly unusual if (he or she) was taking the medication."
Heilman said 45 cases of malaria have been reported in the United States in the first month of this year.
The disease is caused by a parasite and is transmitted by a mosquito bite, he said. Early symptoms include fever and chills. "It might initially seem like an attack of the flu," he said.
Malaria has plagued large parts of the world for centuries, he said, but is controlled in the United States by chemical sprays.
Ms. Jendrynski said Wednesday that her niece was "dedicated to helping people."
She wrote family and friends lively and interesting letters about the West African country, its people and their hardships, Mrs. Rosser said.
"She loved children and had a real thing for the needy," she said. "She always wanted to take care of the needy."
She graduated last year with a degree in church music from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., and had planned to attend Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., this fall.
Mrs. Rosser said she was to study a multicultural mission program and had planned to become a full-time missionary.
Visitation is 7 to 9 p.m. today at Rhodes Funeral Home, 800 Druid Road E, Clearwater.
Funeral service is to be at 10 a.m. Friday at Calvary Baptist Church, 331 Cleveland St., Clearwater, with burial at Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park, Clearwater.