Last November, Hugo, age 13, was like any other normal young teen. He attended school, played soccer with his friends, and liked to watch movies. He was a good, clean kid.
And then one day, he couldn’t hear very well. His ears didn’t hurt, but it got worse. Finally the doctor gave him something that cleared his hearing up.
He went back to his life.
But in April, Hugo’s -- and his mother and father’s -- nightmare began.
He had a seizure. Then another, which left him partially paralyzed.
He spent a week in the hospital. They found nothing. He went home.
But he was not the same.
He didn’t have full use of his arm or leg. He could barely manage to pass the first level of his favorite videogame, which he had previously mastered. He wrote as if in kindergarten. He couldn’t finish the school year.
His mother, Eliza, stopped working to stay at home with him.
He spent the summer falling into a chasm of depression and what then a doctor said looked like schizophrenia. But it wasn’t.
His words didn’t take form anymore. He repeated phrases. At times he just rocked back and forth.
His father, Rafa, spent sleepless nights at his son’s side as Hugo tossed.
In the day, they took him to the psychologist. The psychiatrist. The neurologist. The homeopath. The priest. The shaman. Anyone who might be able to help.
They did CAT scans. MRIs. A spinal tap.
They gave him anticonvulsants. Antidepressants. Sedatives. Vitamins. Teas.
By the end of the summer the violence started.
At first, he just shook a hand a bit too hard. Then he wouldn’t let go, squeezing harder.
A large size for a boy his age, Hugo then easily knocked his mother down. His sister. Even his brother.
Only with Rafa, who could still physically subdue him, would Hugo calm down.
Hugo stopped talking. He stopped eating.
Rafa could barely work between the doctors’ appointments and going home in the afternoon when Hugo got so bad that his mother and sister locked themselves in their rooms in fear.
And then, three weeks ago, even Rafa couldn’t control him anymore.
In the middle of the night of September 11, shaking and raging, Hugo slammed his father’s hands in a door. And didn’t let him go.
A half-hour later, Rafa, Eliza, and Hugo were on their way to the hospital in the big city three hours away, because in our small city, no hospital would take him.
They arrived just in time: Hugo had turned purple and stopped breathing.
These last three weeks he’s spent in the ER of the pediatric hospital, tube down his throat, sedated, and -- horribly but necessarily -- tied down.
Specialists and even university researchers have visited.
They’ve done more CAT scans. More MRIs. More spinal taps.
They can see that his brain is swollen (encephalitis). What they still don’t know is why.
Their hope now lies in a single test, the results of which won’t be available for two weeks.
In the meantime, Hugo can no longer can keep food down. So today they put a valve in his esophagus and a tube to his stomach to force-feed him and keep it from coming up.
Eliza is there every day with him. She can't sleep. She dreams of the end of the nightmare.
Rafa takes midnight buses back and forth to try to keep at least a trickle of money coming in and still be with his son. He works nights and weekends.
He’s sold his car and his tools.
He can’t stop. He has to keep going. For Hugo. For his family.
Be Part of the Miracle
Always willing to help, Rafa has worked diligently and honestly with me for the last year.
Now, he and Eliza and Hugo need help. Our help.
I cannot think of much worse than the pain of seeing their son this way.
As much as I want, though, I personally cannot make Hugo better.
But I can do two things: help them financially -- and ask you to help me help them.
My life has been marked by the kindness of both friends and strangers. I know you don’t know Hugo or his family. But I do.
Be the marvelous you that I know you are. (Yes, you!)
Pay it forward.
Be part of this miracle of the kindness of strangers.
Hugo’s life depends on it.
* Yes, this is in Mexico. There is socialized medicine but many things aren’t covered still. And Rafa makes a “normal” Mexican living, which is to say not enough to cover these highly specialized tests, the trips back and forth, the hospital.
* I am not looking to raise a lot of money. Just what’s necessary to a correct diagnosis and treatment.
Because it’s in Mexico, we may be able to cover the rest of his costs!
* Obviously, they still don’t know what the diagnosis or treatments will be, though. I will post updates here.
* “Thank you” (or this case, Gracias) does not express the depth of Hugo’s family’s gratitude. They, and I, are moved deeply by your kindness.
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- Miriam Warren
- Miriam Warren
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