January 22, 2006

Dear friends,

Many of you are still bringing gifts, even though it is after Christmas. Every time I visit one of our children's homes I am reminded that people all over the world care about children. Thank you. They are truly our most precious commodity. 

Also, just to let you know we care about animals, too, find out what Friends for a Manzanillo Animal Shelter (FMAS) has done for our furry, 4-legged friends

Also on Friday, February 10, at 9 p.m. PATA (Personas Ayudando de los Todos Animales) will be having a Fashion Show and Pet Parade at  Sunset Lounge on the boulevard. Proceeds will go to helping all the street animals in Manzanillo. 

A highlight of the show is what happens afterward. Bring your pet for a one-of-a-kind pet parade. I am trying to get one of my adopted kids disciplined enough to attend.  At this point, I might be better off bringing a stuffed animal! To find out more information about PATA and its events and fundraisers, go to: http://www.mexicanpacific.com/get/PATA/ 

Vicente with his sister prior to the accident last September.

Vicente is gone. Whether it was simply "his time," medical incompetence, or lack of money for proper medical care, we'll never know.  

I learned about this child's terrible accident in the first week of September. Before the accident, Vicente was a normal, happy, healthy 10-year-old who attended school, loved to play soccer, and had hopes and dreams for a bright future.

Vicente was ran over by a truck driver September 2004. He was critically injured, and was taken to the hospital, but Vicente's family couldn't afford to keep him there long. They live in one of the poorest areas of Manzanillo, Tapeixtles, a long climb up steep steps on a hillside.

After learning on Sept. 6 about this young child's plight, I decided to go to my computer and send out a call for immediate assistance. It  worked. (See Vicente, written Dec. 18.)

We were planning a fundraiser for February, some wonderful folks were trying to get Vicente and his mother to go to Canada for evaluation and treatment, and we were starting to collect funds for an adult stroller. For the first time since the accident, Vicente was sitting up, and was responsive to his name and human voices. He seemed to enjoy his donated used TV and music from his CD player, and his breathing tube had been removed.

This all came to a halt last week. The house the family lives in is not much more than a shed. One "wall" is a sheet of plastic. It is on a hill, subject to chilling winds. Though the low 60s is not cold to most of you, those of us who live here find it quite cold, and more so for a bedridden child.

Vicente's mother noticed that he seemed to be getting a cold, which in his condition, could easily develop into pneumonia. Since he was unable to swallow, she had to suction the mucus and saliva from his throat constantly.

She took him (by Red Cross ambulance) to the hospital, where the doctor wrote out a prescription. Then she took the Rx to the government low-cost pharmacy, ISSTE, to get it filled. The girl behind the counter told Maria that she did not have the medication, but another drug would work just as well. Taking the medicine home, Maria administered it through Vicente's stomach feeding tube. Vicente went into convulsions, and was taken to the hospital again. From there on, he went into a rapid decline, and Maria was told there was nothing anyone could do. He was gone in a few days.

Vicente was buried in the cemetery of Santiago, across from my office. Hundreds of people attended. Vicente was brought to his final resting place, like so many other poor people, in the bed of a pickup truck. Many other trucks followed, filled with people. 

Because Maria had no money to buy a new plot, Vicente was buried on top of his younger brother, Luis Daniel, who died at age 2 in a drowning accident in 2001.

This is a tragic end to a child's life--made even more so because the outcome may have depended on money--or the lack thereof.  We have taken the remaining funds that everyone has donated and given it to Maria for funeral expenses. The headstone for her other son, Luis Daniel is a simple wooden cross with his name and dates of birth and death. Maria will have a similar one made for Vicente. Maria is now able to work without having Vicente to care for, but she still has another child at home. She said she will take a little time to rest before looking for work.

Maria has asked me to thank all of you who have contributed. She said that at least Vicente's last 3 months were better than the 11 months before because of your caring and concern.

After spending 17 years in print media writing bad news, including tragedies such as this one, I swore I would never write a sad story again. I wish I didn't have to write this one, but when I started helping Vicente and his family, it had the potential to be a good story--one where people, working together, could perhaps pull off a miracle. But I guess our help came too late. I keep thinking, "What if?" What if I'd learned about it sooner? What if we'd had a chance to raise the funds to get Vicente to Canada?

Though time ran out for little Vicente, your generosity and caring has helped and influenced the lives of many children and animals here in my home of Manzanillo. Bless you all for everything you've done, and continue to do.

Susan Dearing