This story is about Cynthia Ortiz, a devoted single mother of a teenage son, avid runner, and social worker whose life took a catastrophic turn less than four months ago. Cynthia worked at the Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services helping disadvantaged families improve their quality of life. In fact, Cynthia has spent much of her life helping and enriching others and she has always encouraged her son to chase his biggest dreams with passion and fervor. Today, however, she is the one who must dream biggest with the HOPE that she can regain basic abilities that were taken away from her in a tragic and unexpected fashion. Here is her story:
On August 24, 2014, Cynthia was admitted into the hospital after battling severe flu-like symptoms for a few days prior. Over the next week, her condition quickly deteriorated as an unknown infection ravaged her internal organs. In what seemed like a flash, Cynthia went from being a healthy, active woman to being absolutely DEBILITATED by this catastrophic illness.
In the early morning hours of September 1, 2014, Cynthia "crashed" due to lack of oxygen and she had to be immediately intubated, meaning a tube had to be inserted down her throat to get her enough oxygen. We would have lost Cynthia forever had it not been for the heroes of that ICU "crash team" at Memorial Hospital Sheridan.
Now that Cynthia was getting oxygen artificially, doctors scrambled to find the cause. Dozens of tests were run, numerous doctors were consulted, yet not a single conclusive diagnosis was found -- doctors were baffled. All the while, Cynthia's lungs continued to deteriorate and then her kidneys failed, which required her to be on full time dialysis. The complications mounted. Cynthia's brain also began to swell from the inside out. Over the next week, her brain swelling came down and her kidneys rebounded with the help of medication and dialysis and it appeared that her lungs remained the only major concern as she slowly fought her way back. We were wrong.
On September 20, 2014, an MRI revealed that Cynthia had suffered major strokes, mostly on the left side of her brain. The family was absolutely stunned and DEVASTATED and once again we were left clinging to one last straw: Cynthia's SURVIVAL.
Thankfully Cynthia pulled through, but now it was time to assess the damage to her body. The still-unidentified illness had completed its assault and left Cynthia severely impaired in all respects: limited consciousness, no speech, and no movement on any part of her body. The strokes had occurred in areas of the brain that control muscle movement, memory, speech, language, and vision.
Two months and two hospitals later, Cynthia not only SURVIVED, but with the help of intensive speech, physical, and occupational therapy, she is now breathing without any assistance, speaking with more regularity, showing favorable muscle response on her left side, and sitting in her wheelchair for hours on end. She has shown more fight and resolve than anyone I have ever met. More than once Cynthia was all but counted out, given very little chance to even survive, much less recover. Yet she not only survived, but she has made it all the way back home.
But this is where it gets complicated. Cynthia’s terrible misfortune has left her physically, emotionally and financially DISABLED in just four months. She cannot afford the daunting and mounting medical costs. Continuing her intensive rehabilitaion program is her only shot at being able to recover enough to one day be able to care for her son again and give herself at least a chance to recapture some meaningful quality of life. Cynthia is aware, alert, and is communicating better by the day, but she still has a long way to go physically and mentally; she must face the reality of a "new normal" while she continues to grow stronger.
Our family has given a lot of time and effort to help bring Cynthia to this point -- and we should all feel proud and blessed. However, what we have given is not nearly enough to cover the prohibitive costs of her needs, so we decided to help out her cause by posting her story to our extended family, friends, and community in order to raise enough money to fund her recovery.
Cynthia's needs are many:
1. Continued rehabilitation - an outpatient day program that will continue to challenge Cynthia to push beyond her own limits.
2. Specialized equipment/supplies - electric bed, custom wheelchair, bathing/hygienic supplies, ramps for disabled access, vehicle platform for transporting special wheelchair.
3. Home health care - At least 6 hours a day of at-home nursing care.
4. Insurance costs - continuation of her medical coverage as well as her prescription drug costs.
5. Existing medical bills - there is a thick folder full of bills from her numerous hospital stays
6. Transportation - insurance does not cover transportation to and from rehab facilities.
PLEASE give whatever you can because as we come together as a community, no donation is too small and will be greatly appreciated from the bottom of our hearts.
Even if you cannot donate, please be generous with the "share button" -- spread the word far and wide on your favorite social networks and by simple word-of-mouth.
And, of course, keep sending thoughts, prayers, and well wishes Cynthia's way. She has proven to be a resilient fighter, but family, friends, and a community of faith are the fuel that will keep Cynthia going when she's in pain from trying to move her limbs, stumbling through words as she builds longer sentences, and feeling like it is all hopelessly impossible. Together we can lift her higher than even her biggest dreams can imagine.
Thank you for all the love and support and I will continue to update this post with Cynthia's progress.