Monday, May 29, 2006

Valerie Update May 29th, 2006

We have been in a whirlwind with this little Angel. We have learned a lot from Valerie and her mother Alejandra. Her mother is very young, under educated, poor economically but rich in heart & character. She is a mother who has struggled to care for her child in the best way that she knew how with the resources she has available to her. At first glance we thought that Valerie was a child that was being neglected. We were shocked thinking how could a mother let her child starve? In retrospect we now understand that as we work with families and go into their homes we have to learn to assess situations not from our own eyes, our life experiences, our sense of reality but instead we must gain an understanding of the full picture before making a judgment. A valuable lesson learned.

Going through this experience step by step with Valerie and Alejandra over the past months we have gained a whole new respect and compassion for Alejandra. We now know that she is a mother who always wanted to do the best she could for her child. In order to keep her daughter alive Alejandra has fed her hours & hours each day slowly squeezing milk from a bottle into her mouth to keep her from aspirating. Despite her malnourished state Alejandra had kept Valerie healthy enough to live. It was a wake up call for us in the first days that Valerie was here watching the effort that it took for her mom to feed her by bottle up to four hours to give her an 8 ounce bottle of formula. Alejandra has shared with us the struggles that she has gone through as a young mother with a child with a severe physical disability living in unimaginable conditions with little to no resources available to her. Alejandra was given no options for treatment for her daughter. She was given advice on how to continue trying to feed her daughter and had been told by some that she should take her daughter home to die. Can you imagine?

The quality of life that Valerie and Alejandra can now lead will be so much better. Valerie has responded very well to her medical treatment and she is getting stronger day by day. She is quite the little fighter. She is now being pump fed directly into her stomach through a gastric feeding tube. She went through the surgery well and has responded well to the feedings. She was released from the hospital and is recovering at the Ronald Mc Donald house. Alejandra has done an excellent job of learning about the care her daughter requires and is very confident learning new skills. The changes in Valerie in just a short time with increased nutrition have been amazing to watch. She is bright eyed and responsive. She enjoys music, cartoons, listening to books and having her dolls with her. She uses vocalizations to “talk” and will let you know when she is not happy with something! She is definitely a strong little girl!

What does the future hold?

Medical Issues:
Our sole focus right now is on improving Valerie’s health nutritionally. She will have follow up appointments this week to check her progress. She has been released to return home to Mexico to continue to gain strength before secondary medical issues can be addressed. Valerie’s pediatrician in Houston will continue to coordinate her care along with her local pediatrician in Cozumel.

Improvement of Home Environment:
Rosy Pirez of Angel Notion has gone back to Cozumel to begin preparing the home & family for Valerie’s return. We have plans of how to improve their current home environment to meet Valerie’s needs. Plans include providing proper bedding, positioning equipment, ventilation / air conditioning, nutritional & personal care supplies. Rosy will work with the family on how to create and maintain a clean, healthy environment for Valerie. We will work with the family on ways to provide stimulation for Valerie and include her in their family life.

Currently Alejandra & Valerie and family live in a small roof top shack made of scrap materials on top of her parent’s home. Her house is literally made of ping pong tables and scrap wood along with cardboard boxes. This little home and a newer home that the family was beginning to build on a small piece of family owned land were both damaged during the recent hurricane Wilma. We need your help in building the family a safe, permanent home. The home will be built in coordination with family members and volunteers and should cost under 10 K to construct. Help us to reach this goal!

Alejandra can no longer leave Valerie at home alone, she will have to get assistance for in home care and she will need a safe way to transport Valerie to medical appointments, school and therapy appointments.
Do you have a vehicle that you can donate?

Alejandra has demonstrated her ability to care for her daughter, has a great capacity to learn and desires to work with Angel Notion and Carrie’s Heart educating and supporting other families in her community who are going through similar situations. Work that we have done on the island has shown that there is great need there. In March we identified 11 other children whom are severely disabled in the community and whose families are in need of resources and education. We know that these families are just the beginning…we have only just begun to scratch the surface. Alejandra has grown a lot and she has a lot of information that she can now share with other families. Alejandra now has hope and is beginning to make plans for her future. Help us to support Alejandra in meeting her goals by sponsoring her continued education and internship with Angel Notion. We would like to find a sponsor to cover her internship pay with Angel Notion and continuing education.

It takes a village:
Alejandra is doing a great job and Valerie is surprising us daily. We look forward to watching Valerie’s health improve over the coming months and years. We all took a leap of faith coming together to work to save the life of Valerie. It has taken the hard work and dedication of many to get us through this first step in Valerie’s care and recovery. We will continue to need this community of support to stay strong and grow so that we can meet all of Valerie’s medical needs and our goals for this family.

A heart felt thanks to all of you for your support of Valerie and her mother. A special thanks to all of the medical professionals who have worked with Valerie, The Ronald Mc Donald House, American Airlines, DIF and everyone else who has participated in Valerie’s healing! It takes each one of us working together to make the difference in the life of a child!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Valerie is recovering well from her surgery!

Valerie had surgery on Thursday, May 18th to place a gastric feeding tube. She came through the surgery like a champ & is recovering well. She will soon begin feedings through the g-tube. Keep her in your thoughts & hearts!

We are in need of ongoing support of Valerie & her family. Please continue to share Valerie's story with others! It takes our combined efforts to make the difference in the life of a child! As this recent picture of Valerie shows...our efforts are beginning to pay off!


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Valerie & Mom are doing well

Valerie and her mother, Alejandra, are doing well. Valerie was admitted to the hospital on Monday and is currently being fed through a nasal gastric feeding tube. Under the guidance of her doctors she is undergoing tests that will help to determine the course of her care. Alejandra is doing an excellent job of caring for her daughter and Lavonna is guiding her in advocating for the care of her child. The family was accepted into Ronald McDonald house which is helping to keep our costs down. We have received an awesome response from donors - giving the family clothing, personal care items, supplies for Valerie & much needed monetary donations. Thanks to our generous supporters we have been able to provide diapers, pediasure, a kangaroo pump along with the neccessary bags, tubing etc. that will reduce the cost of her hospital stay. We will continue to need your support and to broaden our support base as the our needs change. We are dedicated to helping Valerie and her family. Please continue to share her story with never know who will be touched and called to help!

In addition to monetary donations to help with medical costs we have the following needs:


Huggies Diapers - size 3
Unscented wipes
Poise Bladder control pads - Extra
Pediasure - Strawberry is her favorite

Valerie - Size 3 clothing (new or gently used)- long sleeves & pants/long dresses/cardigan sweaters - no shorts or short sleeves for awhile
Size 5 clothing (for sister)
Size 12 bottoms and Medium tops/sweaters/sweatshirts/hoodies for Alejandra
Blankets/Warm robe for Alejandra

Fiesta cards / cash (so they can buy groceries at Fiesta for the Ronald McDonald house to cut down costs - Fiesta is on their shuttle route)
Non-perishable food items to grab for snacks - Nutri-grain bars, crackers, water, soft drinks, gum, raisins, etc.
Trac phone telephone cards for communication with Mexico

Equipment / Supplies:
Small wheelchair that can be adapted for Valerie (preferably a reclinable one)
Positioning equipment (tumble form chair, small cushions & wedges)
Tube feeding supplies
Guaze pads / bandages / tape

Volunteers / Visitors: If you would like to volunteer in supporting the family during this time of healing please contact me directly at Visitors are also welcome and initial visits can be coordinated with me through phone or email. We will not be posting specifics on the location of the family on the blog.

Thank you so much!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Valerie is here...let's celebrate at the Yucatan Fiesta tomorrow!

I am so happy to finally announce that Valerie has made it here safely. Valerie and her mother Alejandra arrived today accompanied by Lavonna Redman of Angel Notion. They were met at the airport by myself and our newest board member, Paige Whitten, who has been instrumental in each step of this mission. The family and Lavonna are staying in a hotel located in the medical center until a room at the Ronald McDonald house becomes available. We took them welcome baskets with personal care supplies for both mom & Valerie - along with some fun "girly" stuff for Valerie. We took them to Super Target and got them set up with some necessities. They are now resting in the hotel. We are thrilled to finally have them here and to begin Valerie's treatment. I want to thank each of you for your support. It is truly powerful when a group of people work together to do good for others!

I will keep you updated on the blog. Paige will be putting together a specific needs list for the family. Once the family gets settled and we have a treatment plan in place we will put out the call for specific volunteer & funding needs.

If you are in Katy / Houston please come out & celebrate with us at the Yucatan Fiesta tomorrow!!! Let's make this event a huge success - it all benefits such a great cause....embracing the potential in all children!!!!!

I can't begin to thank you all enough!


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Valerie Update 5/2/06

Valerie's arrival date has been postponed for a few days due to family needs and travel arrangements. I will keep you posted as soon as we have a confirmed travel date. Lodging plans & local transport have been put in place. We are doing everything we can to get her here as soon and as safely as possible. Please keep Valerie, her family and everyone involved in this mision in your hearts & minds!

Project Potential

With the end of school drawing near parents are beginning to plan summer activities for their children. I have begun a project called "Project Potential" for children in our community. The focus of the project is to help children with disabilities reach their full potential through participation in enriching activities in their community. Carrie's Heart will provide scholarships for children whose families are in need of financial assistance for summer activities. This is the first year of this project so the number of scholarships awarded will be small. However, I would love to help a few kids have a great time this summer!

Parents interested in applying for Project Potential can contact Carrie at The deadline for applications will be Friday, May 19th to allow time for parents to be notified of having received funding in time to register for summer activities. If awarded a scholarship, registration fees will be paid by Carrie's Heart directly to the organizations providing the activities.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Carrie's Heart Updates

A Picnic in the Park page has been updated with great pictures from the event. It was a great day for everyone! A huge thanks to our sponsors and a great group of volunteers!

Tony Landry at Capital One Bank - Cinco Ranch
Chrisy Conn of Pathfinders Properties
Bonnie Gerken of Gerken Insurance

Check out the new page at:

Yucatan Fiesta 2006 Sunday, May 7 from 2-6 at Taco Cabana on
S. Mason Road. More information and a printable invitation can be found on the website on the Upcoming Events Page - share the link with all your friends & family! Everyone is welcome!

Volunteers are still needed for the event. Contact Carrie if you are interested in helping out.

Carrie's Heart Blog
Carrie's Heart updates, including updates about The Valerie Project can be found on the Carrie's Heart Blog. I have changed blog spots and added a link on the homepage to the newer version of the Carrie's Heart blog.

Donations for the welcome baskets and ongoing personal needs for Valerie and her mother, Alejandra, are being collected. Donations can dropped off at NTS Therapy Services - a huge thanks to Darlene O'Brien NTS West Director & her staff! NTS truly lives by their mission of "therapy from the heart" as demonstrated by their therapists willingness to donate their time to work with Valerie and her mother when they arrive. More information can be found on the blog

Information about the Valerie project & how you can help can be found at Please continue to share Valerie's story.

There are still some Carrie's Heart T-shirts available for $10. Shirts will be available at the Yucatan Fiesta 2006! Be sure to wear one at the fiesta!

Yucatan Project 2006
Carrie's Heart President, Carrie Conn, will be return to the Yucatan this summer to continue working with children, families and special education schools in the region.

Read more about the Yucatan Project 2006 at

Egypt Project 2006
Nora Nasr, Carrie's Heart secretary and Life Skills teacher at Cinco Ranch High School, will be travelling to Egypt during the month of June. During her travels Nora will be visiting special education schools and programs in Cairo. Nora's sister Aida, a journalist, published an article about the special education system in recent years. Using these established contacts Nora will have the opportunity to collaborate with local educators and learn firsthand about the special education system in Cairo. Our hopes are that this initial visit will build relationships leading to future projects in Egypt!

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