Thrive by IU Health

April 25, 2017

A Father’s Death Through The Lens of His Daughter

A Father’s Death Through The Lens of His Daughter

It started with the lighting.

The security lights at the hospital that always stay on -- even when the lights in the waiting room are turned off -- were casting a strange glow into the darkness.

Breanna Daugherty noticed the lights as she sat there in the wee hours of the morning, her mom next to her, with her dad just down the hall in a hospital bed fighting for his life.

The alcohol had finally gotten the best of Tony Daugherty. It was trying to kill him. His liver was failing and so were his kidneys.

Maybe it was her dad’s color, his bright yellow skin, the yellow whites of his eyes, a stark contrast to the man she used to know. Maybe that is what got Breanna thinking about color and lights.

Whatever it was, the 22-year-old photojournalist pulled out her cell phone and shot a photo in the waiting room of IU Health Methodist Hospital that night.

empty room

It was a photo that would be the beginning of a project no daughter ever really wants to be a part of -- documenting the death of her father.

“I promised myself no matter what happens, I have to document it,” Breanna said. “At that point, I didn’t know what I would do with the photos.”

And she didn’t know how it would all end with her dad. But after she shot that first photo, in her mind, there was no turning back.


Tony Daugherty was a man’s man, one of those dads you could brag on.

Growing up in Paoli, Ind., Tony was adventurous, an athlete, a Boy Scout all the way up to Order Of The Arrow. He played tight end on the football team at Paoli High School. He did pole vault and hurdles in track and he was on the baseball team.

Diane met Tony on the town square of Paoli, where the teenagers liked to hang out. They started talking one night and never looked back.

By the time Diane was 16, she and Tony were married. It was 1982. Two sons followed, Derek and Alex. And then came Breanna, always a daddy’s girl.

photo collage

Tony wanted to take care of his family. He was frugal and hard working. He didn’t spoil the kids, but he did spend time with them. Breanna remembers many summers spent camping, going to amusement parks and ball games.

She also remembers the music. Tony was a musician, a passionate musician. He played in bands, did lighting and light shows for bands. He even put together his first guitar, a Gibson.

He wasn’t picky when it came to music. He liked a little bit of everything -- rock, classical and jazz. He collected band T-shirts, many of them came from concerts he attended.

He was a wonderful father and husband.

And, he was a drinker.

That’s where things went wrong for Tony, the alcohol. One of the photos Breanna shot as she documented her father’s death was of a bottle of tequila.

It was the bottle her mom asked her to pour down the sink after Tony was taken to the hospital.

It was 1.75 liters. Her dad, Breanna said, would go through that bottle in a couple days.


Tony would drink after work and on the weekends, but Diane never thought much about it. He always seemed pretty healthy to her.

“I guess over the years, it took its toll,” said Diane.


Especially the hard stuff. That is what Tony would turn to when times got tough. When his mom died. When he lost his job of more than 30 years at the factory.

He would drink the tequila. He would go too far. He would get sick. He would hit rock bottom.

Then, he would go to rehab and do pretty well for a while. But he always, eventually, went back.

Diane is sure Tony suffered from depression. And in April of 2016, he turned back to the hard stuff. This time, he didn’t quit.

He had been sick off and on. Stomach pain, infection in his bowels. Then, he started throwing up and having diarrhea. Then, he had blood in his urine.

He would go to doctors and get “it taken care of,” Diane said – and come back home.

But on Dec. 23, something was different, something was seriously wrong.

Tony’s skin was yellow. His eyes were, too.


Breanna was in the middle of a mundane errand, getting her car worked on, when she got the phone call. Her dad was headed to Methodist, by IU Health LifeLine.

She was the first one to get to the emergency room. She felt encouraged when she saw him. Her dad was alert, just like himself.

He was talking to doctors, EMTs, cracking jokes like he always did. He was teasing a nurse for being too short, even though she was 6 feet tall. Nobody was a stranger to Tony.

He was acting completely normal, Breanna said, but he sure didn’t look normal.

“Even the ER nurse said, ‘This is the most jaundice I’ve ever seen someone in a really long time,’” Breanna said. “It’s pretty bad.”

It alarmed Breanna, but she was still hopeful. Doctors said Tony could possibly get better, though chances were slim.

And it was that night, that first night, sitting in the waiting area at Methodist that Breanna noticed the light.

For the next 10 days, Breanna documented her dad’s final journey. His ups and downs. Her mother’s sorrow. The days after he slipped into a coma.

hands at bedside

His family surrounding his bed. Her mother’s hand and her hand next to Tony’s hand.

In a bittersweet way, Breanna had a feeling, her dad would be proud of her.


It was journalism 101, her freshman year of high school, when a teacher told Breanna, “You have a really good eye.”

“The bee,” Diane says to Breanna. “Remember the bee?”


One of Breanna’s favorite photos, still, is one that was her dad’s idea. A photo Breanna shot when she was just 15.

Tony was out front, mashing aluminum cans, when he saw a praying mantis that had crawled onto the porch railing. He yelled for Breanna to come out there with her camera.

“My dad was so excited for me to take a photo of this,” Breanna said. “And I accidentally turned on my flash.”

When she did, she not only captured that praying mantis, but a bee that was hovering in the air looking at the praying mantis.

Her dad was so proud. He made prints of that photo and he showed anyone who would look.


Tony was 56 when he passed away on Jan. 3. Out of the hospital, Breanna took one more photo -- of her dad lying in his casket at the funeral home.


The next day, she had to head back to Muncie to start her final semester at Ball State University, to continue as editor-in-chief of the university’s newspaper.

But, she couldn’t get the photos off of her mind. For the next month, she would take her phone out and look at those photos; there were 70 of them. What should she do with them?

“I eventually made myself do it,” Breanna said.

For nearly a week, every morning from 1 a.m. until 3 a.m., she sat alone and whittled those 70 photos down to 20. She wrote captions for what they showed.

And she cried. This was Breanna, finally, grieving her father’s death.

And then, with her mother’s permission, Breanna posted the photos to her photography website. It was Feb. 3, exactly one month after her dad died.

She had no idea at the time just how impactful those raw photos of hers would be.


CNN noticed those photos -- and ran Breanna’s entire essay.


The photos went viral. They were shared on social media over and over and over. She had email messages coming from people around the world. She still gets emails, even two months later.

It’s a strange feeling to be getting so much recognition for something so sad, Breanna said. But, both Diane and Breanna know Tony would be beaming.

“If he had seen this, he’d tell her to keep on shining,” Diane said. “That’s what he always told her when she was little. And she is shining, still to this day.”

Editor’s Note: All photos were shot and provided to IU Health by Breanna Daugherty.

-- By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health. Reach Benbow via email or on Twitter @danabenbow.

Latest Stories

Filter from

September 22, 2020 Methodist childbirth educator looks forward to Riley move The new maternity tower at Riley will centralize all inpatient and newborn care so even... September 21, 2020 In Pursuit of Health Equity: An Evolution in Healthcare At the crossroads of storylines between the COVID-19 pandemic and summer-long protests ... September 21, 2020 IU Health COVID-19 Data IU Health is committed to being a trusted source of information for the public during t... September 21, 2020 Practicing Mindfulness During Times of Uncertainty The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the fact that things in life can be out of our co... September 18, 2020 Donating masks to local food banks Indiana University Health Arnett is donating masks to local food banks to help improve ... September 17, 2020 Two surgeries, one day - Father donates kidney to son When his son’s kidneys began to fail, Shannon Dobrucki did what most fathers would do –... September 16, 2020 IU Health Foundation’s Jessica Journey Receives International Industry Honor “Serving people with excellence, compassion, ethics, and positivity” has earned Jessica... September 15, 2020 Her nursing career is an extension of her life of empathy for others Melyssa Sams started her career later in life but she’s always been headed toward nursi... September 15, 2020 Hospital dietitian first came to IU Health as a pediatric patient Long before she even knew about careers in healthcare, Jennifer Golding was a patient a... September 14, 2020 Wear a Mask Because You Care … and Because It Works One of the best ways to protect yourself, your loved ones and the people in your commun... September 14, 2020 Why it’s Crucial to Get Your Flu Shot in 2020 2020 has taught us a lot of lessons. One major lesson being the importance of maintaini... September 10, 2020 Nurse: “I chose IU Health because I trust the oncology care” There are hospitals closer to her home, but when DaJuana Moore was diagnosed with breas... September 09, 2020 College student recovering from bone marrow transplant When she discovered the mass two years ago, Mayra Rodriguez completed treatment at IU H... September 09, 2020 Indiana University Health Foundation funds officer down kits for Tipton police & Tipton county sherriff's departments Pictured from Left: Thomas Sliwa, MD – Emergency Medicine; Brad Robins – Sergeant Tipto... September 09, 2020 IU Health Foundation Grant Helps People Quit Smoking Indiana ranks fifth-highest in the nation for tobacco use, but the IU Health West Centr... September 08, 2020 IU Health Team Member Gives to Transform Healthcare Inequities For Craig Brooks, transformation manager for IU Health Physicians, “transformation” is ... September 07, 2020 Healthcare at home with virtual visits As the COVID-19 case number increases throughout Indiana, more and more Hoosiers are fa... September 04, 2020 Indiana University Health Tipton Hospital opens COVID-19 testing site TIPTON, Ind. – Indiana University Health Tipton Hospital understands the need for a loc... September 03, 2020 Brain surgery on a former president? We can do that From president to patient: Amos Sawyer led the country of Liberia for four years, but i... September 03, 2020 Pharmacy Technician: "I'm exactly where I need to be." For 23 years, Jennifer Harshman has worked as a pharmacy technician. Throughout Harshma... September 02, 2020 Is Addiction Really a Disease? Is addiction really a disease or a matter of choice? Ask the mother who lost her 19-yea... September 02, 2020 Occupational therapist starts sexual health program for cancer survivors Addie Jacobs, occupational therapist at IU Health West Hospital, developed the idea for... August 31, 2020 Administrative Coordinator celebrates ninth year at IU Health Saxony Hospital Holli Smith, administrative coordinator, celebrated her ninth year as an IU Health Saxo... August 28, 2020 How COVID-19 Affects Heart Health COVID-19 is a disease caused by a virus that is closely associated with a very importan... August 28, 2020 Guest Relations team members work to provide patients and visitors with a memorable experience Sonali Patel and Emely Villalta know how difficult it can be for patients and visitors ... August 27, 2020 Open Arms Miscarriage and Infant Loss Support Group Two nurses from IU Health Arnett are teaming up to lead a support group called Open Arm... August 26, 2020 Father Patrick is a ray of sunshine at Methodist Hospital “Chaplaincy is not all about religion. It’s about being present through human suffering... August 25, 2020 Saxony Knee Replacement Patient is Grateful for Her Personalized Care Andrea Colbert worked with Dr. Leonard Buller, orthopedic surgeon at IU Health Saxony H... August 25, 2020 Q3 2020 Quarterly Report: Ball Memorial Hospital Foundation joins IU Health Foundation family Crystal Hinson Miller, chief philanthropy officer for Indiana University Health and pre... August 20, 2020 COVID patient with down syndrome: “Thank you God; You saved the day” She was alone and an hour away from the most trusted people in her life – her parents. ... August 19, 2020 New Website Focuses on Possibilities of Philanthropy Three years after IU Health Foundation opened its doors, a revamped website focuses on ... August 19, 2020 Patient: “Extremely rare disease diagnosed because I was at a teaching hospital” Some of her symptoms went unrecognized; others were more obvious. In the end, it was a ... August 17, 2020 IU Health North Clinical Educator Supports New Nurses and PCAs Megan Miller, clinical educator at IU Health North Hospital, discovered her love of nur... August 17, 2020 IU Health Frankfort now offers Pulmonary Function Tests (PFT) “PFTs are a group of tests that measure how well your lungs work,” explains Kareena Wel... August 17, 2020 Nurse: “I can help save people but I can also give them dignity in the final time” She’s spent three decades caring for critically ill patients. Jennifer McAvene knows th... August 17, 2020 IU Health North Lactation Consultant Helps Mothers Through Their Breastfeeding Journey After experiencing personal struggles with breastfeeding, Martha Ollikainen, neonatal i... August 14, 2020 IU Health West Lactation Consultant Shares the Importance of Breastfeeding Jan Record, lactation consultant at IU Health West Hospital, knows how difficult breast... August 13, 2020 Transplant patient: “The nurses were my lifesavers” At the worst of times, Angela Michael was so ill she didn’t think she could make it thr... August 11, 2020 Nurse Spotlight: Ashley Ritsema After suffering a pregnancy loss, Ashley Ritsema, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) n... August 10, 2020 COVID-19 Funds Expand Yoga Programs Donors to the COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund have helped to bring the healing powers of y... August 05, 2020 IU Health to add eight blocks to downtown campus, build new $1.6B hospital In a major transformation of its downtown medical campus, Indiana University Health pla... August 05, 2020 IU Health files plans for transformative new hospital in downtown Indianapolis INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana University Health has outlined plans for a world-class ho... August 04, 2020 Patient donated kidney, received kidney and enjoying fresh start He has a giving heart. So when his brother needed a kidney, Harambee Purnell donated hi... August 03, 2020 Take a trip through the decades at Methodist safety fair CVCC nurses refresh their skills during an annual training event that aims to teach whi... July 31, 2020 Virtual education, coaching leads to diabetes prevention Have you been told you have prediabetes signs and symptoms? IU Health has a plan in pla... July 28, 2020 Nurse is a ‘Teacher’ in a Different Classroom She just completed 30 years at IU Health and Nurse Melissa Coxey is realizing her caree... July 23, 2020 What You Need to Know About E-Cigarettes & Vaping: Your Guide to the Latest Facts Much to tobacco companies' delight, electronic cigarettes and vaping have caught on sin... July 23, 2020 From New York Designer to Andretti Racing: Cancer connects patient to supporters William “Bill” Ramey’s small town spans two Indiana counties. Since his cancer diagnosi... July 20, 2020 Are Addiction and Dependence the Same Thing? A recent study found that a staggering two out of three Hoosiers know someone strugglin... July 16, 2020 Program plans for expansion: No One Dies Alone When it started, there was no pandemic, but there were still patients who were alone in... July 13, 2020 IU Health Arnett Hospital first to perform Percutaneous Closures of PFO and ASD A Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) is a small hole in the heart that did not close the way it... July 10, 2020 Putting the PT in “redePloymenT” During the COVID-19 peak quarantine time, a lot of hardworking healthcare employees all... July 09, 2020 We’re here to support you To You, Our Valued Patients: No matter what’s going on in the world, you deserve to ... July 07, 2020 “Move Up” grant supports team member career growth An IU Health Foundation grant is delivering a double benefit: By helping to equip IU He... July 07, 2020 Working for 30 Years to Correct Racial Inequities When IU Health Foundation announced the creation of a new Racial Equity in Healthcare F... July 06, 2020 Imaging tech has dedicated 37 years with hospital Gay Calloway loves her job with IU Health University Hospital. She has worked at a CT t... July 06, 2020 Many hearts hurting for tragic death of intensive care worker She always wanted to work in a hospital and loved her job at IU Health, in part because... June 30, 2020 Q2 2020 Quarterly Report: Innovation investments allow for turn-on-a-dime response Crystal Hinson Miller, chief philanthropy officer for Indiana University Health and pre... June 30, 2020 Groundbreaking surgery provides relief for debilitating pancreatitis In what is a first for IU Health, and for Indiana, a team of specialists recently compl... June 29, 2020 Tired of isolation? What to do about quarantine fatigue Even as Indiana begins to reopen its doors, many residents remain skeptical and fearful... June 28, 2020 Four Family Members Died; Five Others Tested Positive for COVID-19 They had no idea that a novel virus could spread so quickly. It was the early part of t... June 25, 2020 COVID-19 Update: Safely opening up more access to Primary Care To You, Our Valued Patients: As summer begins, and Indiana continues to make progres... June 25, 2020 Nurse helped injured motorcyclist: “I just did what I needed to do.” She was on her way to her day shift at IU Health University Hospital when she stopped t... June 22, 2020 Coping with dementia: A family affair Your loved one is confused or disoriented. Is it signs of dementia? How you can help. ... June 19, 2020 Dorthy Deckard, RN, provides compassionate care "Dorthy Deckard [is] selfless and serving to her fellow humans, always," wrote Sharon A... June 18, 2020 Hospital in the home helps patients convalesce in comfort A new program at IU Health allows patients to return to the comfort of their homes afte... June 17, 2020 New moms reach out for help as anxiety kicks in “I would just lie in bed while Hannah was sleeping, and my heart would pound and my min... June 16, 2020 Transplant patients take steps toward independence in COLTT program Zelle Crawford gave up a career in engineering for one in physical therapy, and he coul... June 15, 2020 IU Health implementa restricciones actualizadas temporales para los visitantes A partir del 15 de junio, IU Health comenzó a mitigar algunas de las restricciones temp... June 14, 2020 A spectrum of color - Remembering patients entrusted in their care When a patient dies at IU Health, a team of caregivers gathers to remember and honor a ... June 12, 2020 How we’ll be keeping you informed this summer To You, Our Valued Patients: It’s been a long road, but we’re in a new phase. Like y... June 12, 2020 Nurse Norma Wethington leads with compassion Norma Wethington, LPN, leads with compassion toward team members and patients alike. A ... June 11, 2020 Nurse, new father cares for infant son when wife contracts COVID-19 They have a unique situation. One is an IU Health Nurse; the spouse is an IU Health res... June 11, 2020 Public safety workers receive IU Health grant, COVID-19 assistance IU Health and Community Outreach and Engagement awarded nearly $200,000 in emergency gr... June 08, 2020 IU Health to ease temporary visitor restrictions at all hospitals Starting June 15, Indiana University Health will begin relaxing some of the temporary v... June 05, 2020 Patient from Spain receives cancer treatment at IU Health A cancer patient from Spain travels to Indianapolis to receive treatment at IU Health June 05, 2020 Oncology patients receive ongoing support close to home As IU Health continues to focus on safety measures for containing COVID-19, including s... June 05, 2020 Hospice nurse Nancy Koi brings peace to patients and families “Have you ever met someone whose presence brings peace and comfort to any situation?” ... June 05, 2020 Transplant surgeon recovers from COVID-19, donates plasma It was late March when Dr. Andrew Lutz traveled out of the state as part of the organ r... June 04, 2020 A special message from Dennis Murphy, President of IU Health To You, Our Valued Patients: At this time, I know that many of us are hurt, upset, a... June 04, 2020 Critical care physician pays tribute to fellows working the front line of COVID-19 When his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, pulmonary and critical care IU Health D... June 03, 2020 Finding peace while pushing for progress amid civil unrest Addressing systemic racial inequality requires listening without judging and turning pr... June 03, 2020 IU Health COVID-19 data for the West Central Region IU Health is committed to being a trusted source of information for the public during t... June 01, 2020 A message of equity and justice for all from Dennis Murphy, President and Chief Executive Officer I know I can never really understand what it’s like to be an African-American ... June 01, 2020 Neufelders’ Gift Expands Care for Abuse, Sexual Assault Victims When IU Health West Central Region President Dan Neufelder and his wife, Jane, learned ... May 29, 2020 Rehabilitation for COVID-19 patients – tiny steps lead to great strides Historically, rehabilitation professionals begin working with critically ill patients a... May 28, 2020 The “next normal”: A message from Dennis Murphy, President of IU Health To You, Our Valued Patients: IU Health has a long record of delivering highly-skille... May 28, 2020 ‘Lottery winner’ seeks to benefit IU Health Curtis Underhill often told people he would hit the lottery one day. Now he feels like ... May 28, 2020 Occupational therapist helps patients regain independence As an occupational therapist on the Home Care team, Shikina Walton spends her days help... May 27, 2020 Critical care physician diagnosed with COVID-19: “Too close for comfort” IU Health Dr. Mark Williams has dedicated most of his life to caring for critically ill... May 27, 2020 This is a team working behind the scenes During an ordinary month, IU Health Home Care Distribution Team members provide the inf... May 26, 2020 How can you maintain your mental, physical health during a pandemic Whether you are isolated, or slowly re-entering the public mainstream, there are a few ... May 21, 2020 We’re committed: A COVID-19 update To You, Our Valued Patients: This week, I want to start by acknowledging your persev... May 21, 2020 How to Support Someone's Mental Health During COVID-19 You sense someone is struggling. Maybe in new ways. Maybe you know why – a job loss or ... May 21, 2020 We double dog dare you not to read this story Puppy love is real as therapy dogs who have been quarantined at home during the pandemi... May 20, 2020 How to Be Sensitive to Your Mental Health During COVID-19 Uncertain times, fear, worry. Those phrases get tossed around, used in commercials, tal... May 20, 2020 How to Cope if COVID-19 Has Canceled a Major Life Event A high school graduation with all its pomp and circumstance. A wedding two years in the... May 20, 2020 Helping loved ones say goodbye When Traci Dodds, RN, went to the home of a new hospice patient late one night to perfo... May 18, 2020 Mother, 24, gave birth to a son, and two days later suffered a stroke If Sarah-Grace Richardson could give any advice to mothers it would be this: “Listen to... May 17, 2020 “She had that will to live for all of us” Schoolchildren send cards and letters to “Grandma Linda” after her double lung transpla...