Jessica Lopez lives in Juarez, Mexico. She had just turned 15 years old when she received the news that would change her life. “I had the suspicion that I was pregnant,” said Jessica. “When they did the first ultrasound I found out I was having twins.”
Because of her young age, Jessica was considered a high risk pregnancy. At six months gestation, her water broke. Her daughters were born prematurely. Amy was the first one to be born and a few minutes later came Antonia. “That’s when the doctors told me that she had no arms,” said Jessica.
During her pregnancy, no one told Jessica that her daughter Antonia hadn’t developed any arms. When she was born, doctors gave Antonia a small chance of survival because she also had bleeding in her brain. Miraculously, Antonia survived. A few months later, though, doctors in Juarez said that Antonia was never going to walk. Her grandfather, Rito Lopez refused to accept this. When Antonia was two years old, he decided to teach her how to walk. Rito remembers how he started to teach her granddaughter how to walk. “I build a swing for her in the house, from corner to corner.” He built a special seat to put Antonia in and then he hung the seat to a rope. That rope was tied from one end of the living room to the other. This would help Antonia travel through the room without falling. “And that’s how she started to take her first steps,” said her grandfather. “Saying I can’t doesn’t exist for her. I’ve always told her that. Don’t say I can’t.”
With the help of her grandfather, Antonia learned how to eat by herself using her feet. She started to go to school. Her grandfather built a special desk so Antonia could write using her feet. When she is in school, she takes out her books and she can write by herself. Antonia takes care of her school supplies and she eats her lunch without anyone helping her. Her dedication has paid off; Antonia makes one of the highest grades in her class. Still, her grandfather pushes her to excel. “And I demand more from her,” he says. “I don’t want grades of 9, I want a 10. And people tell me don’t demand so much from her. I say if she already gets a 9, she can get a 10.”
When Antonia turned four years old, her mother Jessica noticed something strange in the way she walked. “That’s when I noticed she wasn’t walking correctly. I searched for help but I didn’t have money to pay for a specialist.” Every time she goes to school, her twin sister pushes her on a stroller all the way to school. “I’m in a stroller because I can’t walk too much,” replies Antonia. “If I walk long distances, my hip starts to hurt.”
Rito took Antonia to the annual Borderless Giving Clinic held in Juarez, Mexico. There they meet Dr. Amr Abdelgawad, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon from El Paso Children’s Hospital. “Antonia came to me and we discussed her case at that time,” said Dr. Abdelgawad. “The reason why she is limping is because her right thigh bone is shorter than her left thigh bone. She also had marked limping because of her leg discrepancy. If you have a substantial limp leg discrepancy which is more than 2 and a half centimeters that may result in the future you get back pain.”
During the clinic, Antonia was approved to receive a life-changing surgery at El Paso Children’s Hospital. This surgery meant Antonia was not able to use her right leg for at least four months. Her right leg is the leg she is more skilled. “She definitely needs the lengthening,” said Dr. Abdelgawad. “But because of her upper extremity condition the decision was more important and involved me discussing the possible complications and adverse effects more to the family and to the patient so they can take an informed decision.” Antonia’s grandfather remembers the day that he explained to Antonia the consequences of having this surgery. “We’ve talked about this many times, and I told her that it was going to be painful. And she said to me, “Dad if I came through once, I can do it again.”
The surgery consisted of lengthening her right femur. Dr. Abdelgawad applied an extender fixator and applied a frame and then cut the bone. Because Antonia couldn’t use her right leg, she learned how to write with her left leg. She couldn’t go to school for this time. Her sister was bringing her the homework and explained what happened each day in class to her. After five months it was time to take the device of Antonia’s leg. Because the bone was still weak, she still wasn’t allowed to walk. But she could start using it to write and to do her homework. She wrote a letter thanking her doctor.
A month later, Antonia took her first steps. She is still receiving therapy in Juarez to adjust to the new length of her leg. She is going back to class and eventually she will be able to walk herself all the way to school. Donations made specifically to the Borderless Giving Campaign provide surgeries to kids of Mexican citizenship with specific orthopedic conditions.
For Antonia, The Borderless Giving Campaign was the best hope she had to receive a surgery to improve the rest of her life. There’s still many patients waiting for that surgery, many families waiting for that miracle…waiting for your support.