Michaele Carnahan, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 61 while on a flight to Atlanta on Wednesday, spent her life quietly taking care of other people’s problems. She would have been embarrassed about all of the attention she’s received and apologetic for any trouble and inconvenience she might have caused.
In addition to managing two offices with five doctors and 15 staff members, Michaele ran a maxillofacial surgery educational foundation. Her work brought her into contact with orthodontists, surgeons and patients from all over the world. The tributes to her that have come in from near and far all speak of her warmth, kindness and professionalism.
Dr. Lance Mason wrote from New Zealand, “She was a dear and wonderful woman, a bullet-proof friend, and an irreplaceable and invaluable asset to her job, which was always far more than a job to her — it was a devoted career for which hundreds of professionals are indebted, and the lives of thousands of patients around the world are profoundly enhanced and enriched.”
Michaele bought a home in Ventura in 2003 and was active in her parish church there. She was very close to family, and traveled to Florida frequently to visit her three sisters and their children. In 1992, she lost her son and only child, Sean, to bacterial meningitis when he was a 22-year-old student at Cal Poly.
The man said that for three hours she chatted animatedly with him, mostly about her job and the people she works with. He also wanted her friends and colleagues to know that she seemed very happy and comfortable while they talked during the first half of the flight. He awoke just before landing when Michaele quietly stepped in front of him to go to the lavatory. Even then, she showed no sign of urgency or distress. If she had been feeling ill, it would have been just like Michaele to try not to bother anyone, and to keep it to herself.