I am inspired by people who pour their heart and soul into their craft. Usually this kind of dedication comes from someone more seasoned in life, but my story today is about a truly passionate young lady who is only twelve years old.
She has lived her dream for most of her young life, overcoming obstacles and kicking past barriers. She has guts and determination … this warrior will change the world! Her name is Elena, and I’m going to let her Mom tell her story.
Elena Maree Sarmento
“I found out my (soon to be) baby girl was destined to be a “survivor” during my ultrasound at just 16 weeks pregnant, although I already suspected she was a girl, the technician had confirmed the news. What I also learned at this appointment was that she did not have two functioning kidneys developing as they should have been. They diagnosed her with severe (UPJ) stage IV Hydronephrosis in her left kidney. (http://urology.ucsf.edu/patient-care/children/Hydronephrosis) This is one of the most terrifying moments in a mother’s life. During any women’s pregnancy, regardless of religion, she prays only for her child to be born healthy. Elena was born November 28, 2001 after 22 hours of labor and less than a week after celebrating Thanksgiving. Just a few hours after arriving into this world Elena underwent a series of diagnostic tests and exams to check her kidney function and determine whether or not surgery would be immediate or if it could wait. Fortunately her surgeon opted for the less aggressive approach and decided to wait…for the next three years of her life, we waited…throughout numerous trips to the hospital, one infection and illness after another and an endless amount of medications, we battled on. Although she has always been just a tiny little thing, she is one tough kid. At just three years old, after over 8 ½ hours of surgery (pyeloplasty), she came out of anesthesia ready for battle (tearing out her IV & pulling on the stint sewn into her side) she looked straight into the nurse’s face and shouted, “I want to go home”. For the next two weeks, I remained in the hospital room by her side, learning how to care for her because the nurses couldn’t get close enough to my little warrior. After just a short week home, we ended up back in the hospital with a serious staff infection raging through her tiny little body. Two weeks later we were finally home and beginning the process of healing both the wounds from the surgery but also the emotional toll we went through. Just a short year later we were to see a new specialist, ENT Physician to determine what could possibly be causing Elena to have problems with sleeping, breathing and even swallowing at times. It turned out she required a tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, & repair of a partial deviated septum, she was only four years old! Because of her previous and ongoing visits to the hospital and Dr. offices, my warrior developed what the medical world calls “White Coat Syndrome” and this is serious stuff. Taking your child to the doctor can be scary for any parent, but when you have a child that is normally a happy, strong-willed child turn into a creature you don’t recognize it is terrifying. I would watch my daughter become a scared, caged animal each and every time we had to see the doctor. It was devastating.
Once she started school a whole world of challenges presented themselves because no parent wants their child to be “different” or teased because of a health condition they have no control over. Living with kidney abnormalities caused her to have incontinence and she lacked the ability to “hold it” like other children could. I learned this the hard way after the first day of kindergarten resulted in tears because the teacher would not let her use the bathroom right when she needed to go. The next 6 years of elementary school began each year with a quick private meeting with her teacher, an explanation and a change of clothes being left in the office.
The warrior becomes a mighty soccer player at just 5 years old. She is one talented little athlete and plays soccer for the next four seasons. At 8 years old she decides she wants to try cheer-leading and the fire ignites in her heart, she has found her passion…we also find out during this same time that not only does she have kidney/ bladder abnormalities (left over from surgery) but she has developed further complications as a result of the antibiotics and other heavy medications she had to take during the majority of her life until now. Another round of testing and visits to the doctor cause more emotional strain on the entire family. We are so concerned about not only her health physically but also her emotional well-being. No child wants to be teased or have the peers around them know they suffer from an illness like this.
Her ailments are obstacles that my warrior will continue to battle for the rest of her life, yet to the outside eye you see a strong willed, very athletic and courageous girl who fights for the things and people she loves with more heart than most people I know. She is strong and mighty and doesn’t allow anyone or anything to stand in the way of reaching her dreams.
She has broken bones (performing a Nationals Champion Competition with a fractured wrist), suffered a concussion and never lets any injury sway her determination to get back to what she loves.”
If only we could capture that spirit and share it with the world.
Elena: You are my hero!