Critically ill Wildwood Elementary student will travel to Minnesota for surgery consultation

First the good news: After protracted negotiations between representatives of the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital and the State of Florida’s Medicaid officials, a contract has been approved that will enable fourth-grader Abby Lacayo, of Wildwood, to receive her long-delayed, critically needed surgery.

The Masonic Children’s Hospital is considered one of the best in the country to perform the complicated procedure, and one of only a few facilities with the expertise qualified to perform the procedure.

Abby Lacayo, who is waiting for further testing and surgery at Minnesota’s Masonic Hospital, is served meals through a feeding tube.

Now, the bad news. The estimated $1 million in medical fees does not include the considerable costs Abby’s family will incur for their months’ long travel and living expenses while staying in Minneapolis so Abby’s mother, Gina, can remain at her child’s bedside.

“Not only will the family have incredible out-of-pocket costs, Gina will be forced to continue her leave of absence from her job at Wildwood Elementary School. Therefore, the lack of income will also severely impact their finances,” said Faye Scher, of the Village of Gilchrest.

“In April we had set up a GoFundMe site to help offset some of the family’s expenses. We had reached our initial goal when Abby was still being treated at hospitals throughout Florida.”

Scher, a volunteer at Abby’s school, also is a member of the Gilchrist West Social Club. She can be contacted at fscher@aol.com.

Last month, Abby Lacayo checked out a gift basket that was delivered by Faye Scher and Elaine Buffen, who both volunteer at her school, Wildwood Elementary. Scher said several people contributed games and books for the girl who has touched hearts across The Villages.

On May 1, the Villages-News first reported about Abby’s health care issue, its impact on her family and Villagers’ generosity. Now, after months of repeated hospital stays and countless physician visits, Abby’s unique medical condition has a named diagnosis – actually two: Heredity Chronic Pancreatitis and Gastro Paresis.

“Paresis causes a gene mutation resulting in cancer in 85 percent of patients,” Gina Lacayo said. “Some 2,000 children are estimated to be suffering from the same condition. But at least we now know how to proceed.”

The medical costs contract agreement has been one of the many battles the Lacayos continue to fight.

“Now, we are working with Masonic Hospital staff to expedite the pre-surgery process,” Gina said.

First, the physicians and faculty must examine Abby. Then, weeks later, the team decides what, if anything can be done. If approved, the date of the operation date is determined based on the patient’s severity of illness. This delay could take anywhere from two weeks to eight months.

Abby and her family are extremely thankful for the donations Villagers and other tri-county residents have made to help offset expenses, but more will be needed for medical bills and travel to the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital.

The family is planning to travel to Minnesota the end of July for the three-day-long consultation, and then are hoping to arrange for Abby’s surgery in August or September. Even after surgery, the recuperation period is expected to last six months.

“Abby had been a patient at Shands Hospital in Gainesville but exhausted the hospital’s resources, so they sent us home,” Gina said. “She’s on a feeding tube and pump. Because of her diagnosis, the doctors won’t prescribe any medications to lesson her considerable pain.”

While they wait, the family’s web-based donation requests remain a financial lifesaver. The link is www.gofundme.com/donations-for-Abby.

“We encourage everyone to demonstrate their generosity,” Scher said. “Please support this seriously ill little girl and her deserving family.”