Dana Marshall-Bernstein’s family called her their superhero.
During a nearly lifelong battle with Crohn’s disease, Marshall-Bernstein worked courageously to raise awareness about the disease and her fight against it, including appearing in a documentary film titled “Semicolon; the Adventures of an Ostomy Girl.” On Sunday, she succumbed to the disease at 28.
“Dana is and always will be a spiritual warrior,” said her mother, Cari Marshall. “She always had such perseverance, strength and courage. She lived that way not only for herself, but for many. She was the voice for many with her illness.”
Despite the intimate nature of Crohn’s disease, Marshall-Bernstein didn’t shy from telling her story, including making various media appearances, in hopes of bettering the lives of others living with the illness.
“She wanted to be able to speak up for those who couldn’t,” Marshall said. “She led the way for many.”
With her infectious and extroverted personality, Marshall-Bernstein touched the lives of those who met her, Marshall said. She was recalled as funny, sharp, intelligent and loved by many, which her father, Ed Bernstein, said was reflected in her large group of friends. She also projected her fun personality with a huge collection of hats — a different one for practically every occasion.
“She would always show up in a cool hat,” Marshall said. “She was known for her hats.”
When Marshall-Bernstein wasn’t advocating for those with Crohn’s disease, she liked to snow ski, play the piano, sing, create art and, most of all, drive.
“She loved any vehicle,” Bernstein said. “A car, a golf cart or whatever, she loved vehicles.”
Her favorite places included beaches, especially Coronado Beach in California, and the Del Mar racetrack, to bet on horse races with her dad.
An avid animal lover, on her way to a holiday breakfast at Green Valley Ranch one year, Marshall-Bernstein stopped on a busy road to save a turtle making its way across the street.
“It’s in the middle of the road, so she runs out and stops traffic to pick up this turtle,” Marshall said. “She came in and she was telling Danny and Robin Greenspun the story. We went to the car and hunted for the turtle and found him in the door pocket.
“Danny took the turtle and gave him an amazing home. I think its name was Speedy. He would send her pictures of Speedy basking in the sun on a rock or hanging out with his other turtle.”
Marshall said that despite her battle taking up so much of her time and energy, her daughter wasn’t defined by her disease.
“She had so many surgeries, so many procedures, saw so many doctors and was so much in that world, but she was so much more than that,” she said. “She had a love for life. Her family loved and adored her and always will. She was a foodie; she had a very sophisticated palate.”
Absorbing information about the disease, Marshall-Bernstein was known to have answers for almost any question on the topic from her family or friends.
“Instead of Google, you’d just go to Dana,” Marshall said.
Her knowledge spilled over into the medical world, as she would offer advice to medical staff members carrying out procedures on her. She also was a champion for other patients, and worked to help medical staff understand the importance of giving patients the feeling they had some control over their ailment.
“Doctors and nurses have come up to Cari and I saying she changed their life because they were able to see things much more clearly from a patient’s point of view,” Bernstein recalled. “She had ideas on how to care for patients, and taught the doctors and nurses.”
Marshall said the way her family treated her helped keep her smiling despite her situation.
“We always stayed positive with Dana. We didn’t treat her like a sickly kid,” Marshall said. “We wanted her to have some independence and allowed her to feel beyond normal and have fun. And she did that.”
A memorial service for Marshall-Bernstein is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at Congregation Ner Tamid in Henderson. Memorial donations are being accepted at the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, Southwest Chapter, located at 615 S. 7th St., Las Vegas, NV 89101. To make a donation online, go to http://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/chapters/southwest/