Some families exude such a welcoming, comfortable presence – it’s easy to feel as if you are “one of them” – there’s a sense ofbelonging. Meet the Valdez family from Pueblo, Colorado, who have stayed at our Ronald McDonald House off and on since August, 2012.
Marquita and James share a love and delight of one another and for their beautiful children, James, 3, and Serenity, 11 months. There was much laughter and pretending during our time together. At one point, the younger James was “driving” all of us to a local restaurant (he was hungry for spaghetti, and “pretend food” seemed better than no food!) When asked (by the pretend waiter), “What can I get for you, sir?” without hesitating, he responded, “I’d like a beautiful flower for my Mom, please!” Such it is. Profound kindness pours from this young family.
For reasons still unknown, Serenity has struggled with numerous medical ailments, befuddling her parents, extended family and a team of doctors and specialists. What began as a diagnosis of “failure to thrive” has led the Valdez’s down a path they couldn’t have foreseen.
When Marquita nursed her daughter, Serenity would have projectile vomiting – every time. Having had a completely different experience with James, Marquita knew something wasn’t right. Initially, doctors told her it was normal, but as Serenity continued to lose weight her vigilant parents sought second opinions. A doctor determined Serenity was suffering from a severe fat malabsorption, lab findings included blood and undigested fat in her stools. An x-dome test was ordered.
Because of her inability to absorb fat or nutrition, Serenity contracted life threatening rickets, causing multiple fractures to her tiny bones, even when the hospital administered IV’s or heel pricks. She has been continually watched as she gets infections easily. During Serenity’s five month stay, the Valdez’s were blessed by the support and help received from GI Specialist Dr. Amethyst Kerbegov and a team of doctors whom they credit for saving Serenity’s life, while becoming new friends.
Awaiting the results of the x-dome test, the Valdez’s continue to pray for healing for their little girl. They are thankful that the diagnoses of Cystic Fibrosis and Shwachman-Diamond syndrome, (both known to lead to cancer, compromised immune systems and premature death), have been ruled out.
Serenity’s new formula, tolerex, contains almost 0% fat, which she is tolerating well. There’s a Subclavian Broviak Catheter (central line) in her chest, requiring lipid infusions twice a week, to prevent a fat deficiency. The Valdez’s have a good nurse who assists Marquita, who started her CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) training in March, 2013.
Several times, this family has heard grim news from doctors that their precious daughter might not survive. Marquita held Serenity closer and said, “Being cared for at the Ronald McDonald House created a safe place for our family, including James. That meant the world to us… None of us could have been without James. The possibilities of death loomed all around us. James was LIFE. Ronald McDonald House allowed LIFE to fill our hearts with hope.” She continued, “To be so near Serenity who was being cared for at the hospital, and to have our family together – we don’t know how else we could have done this.” Her husband James added, “The House was a place we could rest. We received such a warm welcome from staff and volunteers. They always asked how Serenity was, and they were so kind to little James.”
“The first time we walked in, we were impressed. It felt like we were ‘going home’. Everything was so clean and comfortable. It was a great place to stay without going broke!” An Auto Detailer by trade, a cousin stepped in to help James with his business, allowing him to be with his family, so they could support one another emotionally. Little James chimed in, “I love playing at the Ronald McDonald House. It’s fun inside and outside, too.” From his place of concern over his ailing little sister, James proudly exclaimed, “I’m going to be a doctor so I can fix people who are hurt. Like my sister.” A proud, knowing smile graced his Mom and Dad’s face.
Coming back every couple of weeks for testing, doctors continue to check Serenity’s levels and functions. The good news is – for now – Serenity continues to improve. At nine months, she weighed just 9 pounds. At 11 months, she’s now a whopping 17 pounds, 10 ounces. Throughout this process, her parents marvel at what a happy baby she is. “She has come so far!” Marquita enthuses. Dad closed with, “I just want to see my daughter walking, happy and healthy. I want for her to be able to eat from her mouth. I want her to grow into a woman and make us old, happy grandparents…” We agree.