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!

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