For Roxana, the devastating news regarding Melanie’s health came when she was only five months pregnant. The doctors told Roxana that her baby had a dangerous growth in one of her lungs. She was going to need surgery immediately after being born.
Melanie was only eight days old when she had her first surgery.
Her prolonged time in the Intensive Care Unit left Melanie with permanent scarring in her trachea. She was just 40 days old when she had her tracheotomy performed. Roxana was heartbroken, she wanted to take care of Melanie, but as a single mother, this was going to be impossible. She had to work long hours and required her family’s help to look after her baby girl.
A nurse drawing blood from Melanie’s finger before surgery.
However, taking care of Melanie’s tracheotomy was not easy, and her family felt uncomfortable with the task. The only thing Roxana could do was to care for Melanie at 4 am before she left for her job, and late at night when she came back. But this was not enough, Melanie was 1-year-old when she got sick with pneumonia, making her breathing even worse.
The hospital warned Roxana that if she did not attend to Melanie full time, they were going to take legal actions against her.
Melanie in purple, awaiting surgery and a new life.
Proud and full of smiles!
Roxana immediately quit her job to care for Melanie full-time. Over the next couple of years, Melanie spent her time in and out of the hospital; the goal of her medical team was to help her breathe on her own.
Although Melanie’s health was improving, this medical rollercoaster took a toll on her emotionally. The older she got, the more aware Melanie became of her condition. She could not run like her sister or play outside like the rest of the kids.
People in the streets would continually ask her mom, “what is that thing she has in her throat.” Once she started going to school, her classmates made fun of her because she looked ‘different.’
For Melanie, this was devastating; not only could she not play like the rest of her classmates; her classmates did not want to play with her. The situation got so bad that Melanie stopped eating; she did not want to go to school, or even be out of her house.
When Roxana heard about Operation Airways, she knew this was her only hope, as airway reconstructive surgeries are currently not performed in her home country, El Salvador.
Melanie’s life was completely transformed. Before her surgery, Melanie would always have her head down, trying to hide her trach. She would not talk to anyone at the hospital or even go out of her room. Now, just looking at her, you can tell Melanie is beaming. It is as if, in one instance, she had gotten her life back. She is talking and hugging the nurses, playing with other kids, and says she can’t wait to be back in El Salvador to see her family.