Vicente Update

by Susan Dearing

Please click on photos to enlarge

Seeing an orphaned or abused child is hard enough, but seeing an injured child is heartbreaking. To know that he is in that condition because the family is poor--well, that is simply beyond belief.

However, it becomes very real when you see with your own eyes what Vicente and his family are going through.

But, because of your help, there is hope--more hope than we ever thought possible.

Rossella passes out toys for the other children.

Maria with an empty $150 peso can of Ensure

L to R: Maria, her mother, the author, and her sister.

Vicente's mother is Maria de Jesus Medina Macias, age 42. She rarely leaves the house because Vicente needs constant care. Maria's mother and sister live nearby, and they come over almost daily giving a her break from her vigil. Here is the story of Vicente's accident as it was related to me.

Last September, the family lived in Colomo, a small village outside of Manzanillo. Maria had a job in the local tortilla factory, and worked 6 days a week. Vicente was a good student in school, loved going to school every day, and had promised his mother he would get good grades. She promised him that if his report card was good, she would buy him an "America" soccer shirt. "America" is the Mexico City soccer team. As most boys in Mexico, Vicente loved soccer.

He was on his way to school on his bicycle, and realized halfway there that he had forgotten his notebook. Returning home, he picked up his notebook and headed back to school, realizing he was going to be late. A large semi-tractor trailer truck was apparently coming around a curve and didn't see him. He was struck head-on. From the tortilla factory, Maria and the others heard the impact, but Maria had no idea it was her son, who should have been in class by that time.

Vicente was taken to the hospital suffering from brain trauma, but nothing was done to attempt to reduce or repair the injury. The doctor suggested to Maria that she take him home. Periodically Maria has the Red Cross pick up Vicente and take him to the hospital, but each time, the doctor says nothing else can be done. They have suggested she stop giving him nourishment through the feeding tube and let him pass on, but as a mother who loves her child, she can't do that. Besides, she has already lost another child in a drowning accident.

Vicente's biological father lives in the United States, and does not and never has contributed to the support of Maria and her children. Two of his brothers also live in the U.S., and they provide no assistance either. The Ensure product that Vicente needs is $150 pesos a large can. Specifically, it has to be the powdered Ensure, and it needs to be either strawberry or vanilla. Chocolate makes Vicente too excited, his mother says. In addition to the Ensure, he needs the IV serum, and adult, medium-size diapers.

Originally, when I first wrote about Vicente, I thought nothing could be done medically for Vicente. Though his skull (frontal) remains severely caved in from the impact, he has improved dramatically just within the last two months. Maria told us that Vicente made no progress for the past year, but now suddenly, whether it is through prayer or outside stimulation, Vicente is improving. He responds to people's voices, particularly when he heard me speaking English to Rossella Caligaris, who went along with me. 

Maria says he also seems to enjoy music and television. One of the donations Vicente has received was a small black & white used TV. Not only does he enjoy watching it, but he makes noises (I would imagine of displeasure) when it is turned off. He can't speak, but for the first time, he is trying to formulate sounds. He responds to his name, and turns his head to look at you. When you speak to him, he appears to be trying to answer. His eyes will track you from one side of his bed to the other, and he can turn his head from side to side. Another recent gift was a CD player, and Vicente seems to really enjoy music. 

His mother has moved him from the bedroom into the kitchen area, so he has more room, can look outside, and watch TV or listen to CDs. It is thought that the stimuli (TV, music, etc.) has helped him to improve. Or perhaps, more simply, it was all your prayers. He can now sit up, and his mother is trying to get the breathing tube removed from his neck.

Lulu, Maria and Rosella in front of Vicente's home

Maria, along with Vicente and daughter Alicia and cousin Sara live in an unfinished house owned by her sister. The bedroom is barely big enough to hold a double bed. The other "room" where Vicente now is has two brick walls (unfinished), one wall of scrap lumber, and the final wall is a sheet of black plastic to keep out the elements. They have a refrigerator and stove, but no bathroom. 

When we arrived, Maria was doing laundry in an orange tub in the front yard. A chair leaning against the house holds at least another 15 lbs. of clothes to be washed by hand.

I was impressed by how immaculate the home was, with curtains on the window and the bed made. It was very hot inside, however, and they had only one small fan in the room. Alicia and Sara enjoyed the toys donated by a caring family from Idaho. While Rossella and I were visiting, Maria's mother and sister stopped in. Everyone had to stand because the only chair was piled with laundry. The kitchen area was clean and neat, but there was an obvious lack of utensils and cookware. Recently some kitchen items were donated by a visitor to Manzanillo, along with the CD player Vicente uses every day. 

Lourdes (Lulu) Torres Rio from Gaby Sevella's office took us to the home this first time, since it is hard to find and not easy to get to. Since that first time, we have returned numerous times with donations of money, food, toys, Ensure, and of course, the TV and CD player. Children of tourists who have brought donations have even drawn pictures to give to Vicente.

One of the most recent donations was an automatic feeding machine, so that Vicente's mother would not have to hand-feed Vicente as she has been doing this past year. This visitor was from Canada and has a daughter who was in a serious car accident. Her daughter has improved enough so that she no longer needs the machine, and she volunteered to give it to Vicente. Sonja from Manzanillo's department of tourism met her at the airport, and took her to the home, where she instructed Maria on the use of the machine.

The next item we are hoping to secure for Vicente is an adult stroller, similar to the one pictured here. We have a couple of people working on it, but a new one costs about a thousand U.S. dollars. A used one would be fine. 

Maria thinks now that Vicente is responding so well, it would be nice to be able to take him outside. Perhaps the stimuli of birds chirping, burros braying and roosters crowing would help him improve, as would fresh air and the laughter of other children.

Maria has opened a bank account for Vicente where money can be wire transferred. If you would like to contribute by making a deposit or transfer by wire, here is the account information:

HSBC (Hong Kong Singapore Banking Corporation)
Suc. Manzanillo
Vicente Melgarejo Medina
Acct. #6220786851

Other donations may be taken to Maria Cumbé Boutique & Bazaar, Km. 12.5 Blvd. Miguel de la Madrid, Salahua (in front of the golf course, a half block south of the entrance to Las Hadas--Av. Audiencia), or Scuba Shack, Km. 15 Blvd. Miguel de la Madrid, Santiago (in front of the Santiago cemetery.) For more information call 333-3678.

The following people have donated money, toys or food in order of their time of donation:

Warren Scheiffle, Manzanillo resident
John Thacker, Manzanillo homeowner, part time resident
Jessica Aguirre, visitor to Manzanillo
Paige Nichols, former Manzanillo resident
Laurie & Andy Brown, visitor to Manzanillo
Susan Dearing, resident of Manzanillo
Candy King, resident of Manzanillo
Debi & Buzz Teter, residents of Manzanillo
Steve & Diana Stout, residents of Manzanillo
Platinum Coachworks in Corina, CA
George Burgers in San Bernardino, CA
Mary & Enrique Montes in San Bernardino, CA
Jan Harris
Margaret Dunlap
Julie & Ken Travis
Brandi & Rae Ferguson
Eric Quigley*
(*Erik is 15 years old and read the article on the internet about Vicente. He contacted his grandmother, Lou, who lives in Manzanillo, and asked her to help. Thank you Eric! You're never too young to care.)

The list of those who are continuing to help keeps on growing! Thanks everyone!

Hopefully we'll be able to add your name to the list soon. While I realize that massive relief efforts are being initiated for the people left homeless by Hurricane Katrina, Rita and Wilma, and many are involved in helping that cause, this is just one small boy and one family where a little could do so much.