Frank was gravely ill when he came to Casa Jackson. The 10-year-old boy with very devoted parents had been living a nightmare for the last 2 months. Frank had always been a healthy, happy boy who loved going to school and playing soccer with his friends, his parents told us. You wouldn't know it, looking at this little boy who weighed less than 50 lbs.
Frank started complaining of strong headaches towards the end of last school year. His parents, poor and uneducated, didn't have many options, so they took him to a public hospital where care is free but sub-standard. The doctors told Frank's parents that they needed to perform brain surgery.His parents didn't really understand the terminology the doctors were using, and didn't know what questions to ask before consenting. Following surgery, Frank lost his appetite and only ate a couple of spoonfuls of food and liquid each day. He was now too weak to walk, stand, or sit on his own, and even speaking was painful.
Since the surgery, Frank’s parents were going without food to purchase his medicine. His father, a carpenter, was working 18 hours a day to earn money; while his mother stayed by his bedside. They brought him to several hospitals and clinics. They were turned away each time until a doctor told them about Casa Jackson. It was hard for them to believe that we would try to help Frank at no cost. His father tried to repay us by offering to use his carpentry skills to build anything we needed, and offered for his wife to work as our maid.
Only a couple of days after Frank was admitted, he suffered a series of large seizures in the middle of the night and was rushed to a near-by hospital. Tests revealed that Frank had a large brain tumor. Casa Jackson staff used their connections to arrange an appointment with a well-known neurologist in Guatemala City, to find out if the tumor was operable and if Frank would survive long enough to have the surgery.
The day of the appointment, Frank must have known his time was limited. He kept telling his father that he just wanted to go home. Fifteen minutes after we gently placed Frank in his bed at home, he passed away surrounded by his loving parents, sister, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
The staff and volunteers at Casa Jackson share his family's profound grief but also their hope that Frank is now at peace. We wish this story had a different ending but, unfortunately, not every story is a success. Sometimes, children come to us too late to help. Despite our best efforts and well-connected medical network, we can't save them. These moments are thankfully few, but definitely the hardest at Casa Jackson. But they also remind us why this work is so vitally important in Guatemala. We work in memory of children like Frank, who came to us far too late and left us far too soon.
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