By Amber Swedgan
There is nothing that can tear at our hearts like seeing children and babies, these were small things, undergoing critical care in a hospital. Images portrayed through the media is simply not the same as being in their presence and hearing their stories first hand; it cannot capture the fragility of these lives, truly reveal the bravery in their souls, or allow us to comprehend the immense upheaval families endure as they follow these young lives through their journey of sickness and of care. Walk with me for a moment to see through my eyes as I visit Children’s Oncology & Cardiology Center in the Salvatierra General Hospital in La Paz and understand how helping to save these young lives can help to change our own.
I was invited last week to travel with a group of ladies to visit the hospital in La Paz. To have these specialties available was the vision of one of our Q members, Tom Walsh. Tom identified the need of having a Cancer Center and Foundation dedicated to children in Baja California Sur and with the collaboration of many others, the foundation and center have become a reality and accomplished some incredible milestones.
Touring the hospital and looking through the glass of isolated rooms while babies and children lay in intensive care after surgery and chemotherapy will take you to your knees. With mothers and nurses holding their tiny hands, the squeals, the screams, and the beeping of monitoring machines is actually the sound of hope and of life. For the thousands of young lives and their families who have come to this incredible facility, they are being given a chance they would not have otherwise had. The hospital includes various specialized areas including pediatric oncology, cardiology, and intensive care programs, providing the most comprehensive care to children from all over Baja California Sur.
Nothing brought more joy to our hearts than seeing this masterpiece of a facility and listening to the stories of sweat, tears and hard work to make this dream come true. We met the relentless team of doctors who have picked up and moved from all over the world to be a part of this dream. We visited with young children who have recently received open heart surgery, met a young lady who had her leg amputated a few years ago and was volunteering her time to support another young lady who’d had her arm amputated. Friendships created and all united by their common battle against cancer. While our visit only lasted a few hours, the impact on me will last forever.
The Foundation has even taken it one step further with the support of Casa Valentina which provides a separate home beside the hospital with clean comfortable living quarters for the families of the children with cancer to stay while their little ones receive treatment. Casa Valentina is equipped with therapists, counselors, and volunteers to help the families cope with difficult times. Casa Valentina is their home away from home with a playground, toys, games, and a wonderful kitchen that serves nutritional meals for them. During my visit to Casa Valentina, I met a 4 year-old girl named Abby whose baby brother has been diagnosed with cancer. Abby immediately had a connection to me and I spent time away from our group and played with her on the playground. It was incredible to see how much a little affection meant to this little girl.
As tough as is was to say goodbye to Abby, and all the children and support staff, I know that they are all in the best care facility available and will be taken care of thanks to the generosity of the Foundation donors.
How close to our Q home does this hit? Currently, there are children of Querencia employees being supported by the Foundation.
How close to my family does it hit? Mike’s daughter, Amanda was diagnosed 3 years ago with Stage 4 Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Cancer.
Since my early 20’s I have sat on numerous industry association boards and have volunteered hundreds of hours of time and creativity to raise money for educational scholarships for the less fortunate. As rewarding as it can be, it’s also easy to get worn out. You get tired of being the asker and always trying to come up with a new idea to raise funds. I get it. But after 11 years, living the “no bad days” lifestyle, my visit to the Children’s Oncology & Cardiology Center in La Paz really helped to bring home the reason it’s so important we put in the effort and never give up. I finally get it, seeing those young lives in the care of these remarkable people and this incredible facility. I get WHY so many individuals have put their hearts and souls into the Los Cabos Children’s Foundation project. I too can see they are a part of something so much bigger.
To the Los Cabos Children’s Foundation and all of their supporters, I thank you for offering hope for the future to these brave children and their families – you should be so proud of yourselves. And to my Q friends, I ask that you see the center with your own eyes and learn about their work and how your support can ensure we carry on giving life-saving care to these beautiful, brave kids.