2011 CMN Miracle Child Jack Gallegos

Aiming for a Goal: Jack's Story

It was Halloween of 2009 and five year old Jack Gallegos was anxiously getting ready to hit the streets to trick or treat. He wanted to be a Bumblebee from the Transformers but as he and his mother, Estella Lopez, were driving to his grandparents’ house. Jack started having severe stomach cramps. “He threw up in the car,” said Estella. Estela concern grew as the could tell Jack's pain kept increasing.  

Her first reaction was to take him to the nearest hospital just to be on the safe side. She rushed to the emergency room of the closest hospital. “The physician in the Emergency Room told us that his small intestine was twisted, cutting the blood flow to the rest of his body.” Volvulus, twisting of the intestines, is a very hard to diagnose lifethreatening condition. Time is of the essence. Because the rest of Jack’s body was not receiving blood, if it wasn't resolved quickly his organs would start to shut down.  Jack needed immediate surgery to correct his problem. Unfortunately, the hospital he had been transported to was not able to provide the needed surgery.

Estella frustration grew when she found out they couldn’t operate on her son. “When your child gets sick and you run to a hospital, you are under the assumption that they will have the doctors and equipment available to treat your child. And for me to hear that they didn’t was an eye opening experience.”

The Pediatric Critical Care Transport Team was activated.  Jack was transported to pediatric specialists in Pediatric ICU trained to deal with these kinds of life threatening conditions.  A pediatric surgeon was ready and waiting in the operating room. As soon as Jack arrived he was taken to the operating room.

Doctors had to work quickly before tissue stopped functioning.  Pediaric intensivists Dr. Jorge Sainz and Dr. Clinton Woosley, and pediatric surgeons Dr. Donald Meier and Dr. Rathenback, consulted with pediatricians all over the country to save Jack’s intestines.  The intensivists at the PICU began looking into transplants and managed care in case the intestinal tract could not be saved.  Unfortunately, necrosis had set in to a portion of Jack’s intestines requiring that 47 inches be removed.  During the next 72 hours, little Jack would undergo three surgeries.  He had a catheter going to his heart, IVs hanging and for the next two months Jack would have to be fed through a tube in his stomachto help him maintain his weight and get the nutrients that he needed because he could not eat food.

Jack would endure a total of nine surgeries and 81 days in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.   Christmas was in the PICU.  So was his birthday.  Dr. Rathenback marveled, “There was never a day that a member of his family was not by his side.”

Jack continues to deal with the after effects.  He still must be fed through a tube in his stomach. “Jack doesn’t let it keep him down.  A year later he was playing in a soccer league, something that I never would have thought he could do a year ago.”  Jack had to repeat kindergarten due to his absence, but he managed to make the honor roll for the first nine weeks of school the year he returned and had big plans for basketball, football and baseball.

“If it wasn’t for UMC, all the nurses and doctors that took care of my Jack, I don’t think he would still be alive. I was unaware of what was needed to take care of a long term sickly child, and I know Jack was a beneficiary of money raised from Children’s Miracle Network.  I hope that my son’s story will help raise funds to help other children as well," Estella said looking at her son proudly in his soccer uniform.