A Wildwood Elementary School student who is in Minnesota for a highly complicated surgery and her family got some good news recently – the Ronald McDonald House had a room waiting for them when they arrived.
Nine-year-old Abigail “Abby” Lacayo suffers from Hereditary Chronic Pancreatitis and Gastro Paresis and has been forced to endure excruciating pain and bloating for the past several years.
On Dec. 12, a team of specialized surgeons at the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital are scheduled to remove Abby’s pancreas, spleen and gallbladder, while also transplanting islet cells into her liver in what most likely will be a 12- to 14-hour-long surgery.
Abby had to arrive in Minneapolis early so she could start attending appointments and going through preoperative testing. So that meant the straight-A fourth-grade student and her parents, Gina and Denis, had to make the four-day, 1,521-mile journey through eight states to get to the hospital.
They arrived this week and have been busy unpacking and settling into the two-bedroom apartment-style accommodations provided to them through the Ronald McDonald House program – complete with Christmas decorations for their front door. And the best news – the accommodations are theirs for as long as Abby needs treatment.
“We are so grateful for the amazing hospitality we have been shone here,” Gina said Wednesday night, adding that she doesn’t know what her family would have done if they’d had to pay for a hotel room for the six to 12 weeks they’ll be in Minneapolis while Abby recovers and goes through a multitude of post-surgery appointments. “There is no way we could have afforded it.”
Abby also has gotten to experience something she’s never seen before – snow – and lots of it.
“Abby is super-excited,” Gina said. “She is mesmerized by the snow.”
The days leading up to Abby’s surgery are going to be busy, Gina said, starting with a packed slate on Thursday.
“We have a lot of tests and appointments scheduled,” Gina said.
Abby’s story is well-known throughout Florida’s Friendliest Hometown and has gripped the hearts of many Villagers. One of those is Faye Scher, a volunteer at Wildwood Elementary and a member of the charity-oriented Gilchrist West Social Club. Scher, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, has been doing everything in her power to help the Lacayo family, including providing necessities for the trip, delivering special gifts baskets for Abby, offering a support system and starting a GoFundMe account to help offset the enormous expenses they’re facing.
So far, 346 people have contributed $25,248 in seven months through the GoFundMe page. The highest donation is $1,500, which was followed by a $1,000 gift. And the link to the GoFundMe page has been shared 978 times on Facebook.
Scher is hoping that Villagers and area residents will take a few minutes this holiday season to remember Abby and her family by sending Christmas cards with positive messages for a successful and speedy recovery for the young girl who wants to become a doctor when she grows up.
Cards can be mailed to Abby Lacayo c/o Ronald McDonald House, 621 Oak Street SE, Room No. 311, Minneapolis, MN 55414.
Prior to heading to Minnesota, Abby also received a couple of other much-needed boosts. Last month, members of the Amigos Sports Club came together and purchased an iPad and many other items for Abby to take on the trip to Minneapolis. Jim Wilson, co-chair of the club’s Adopt-A-Family program, and his wife, Mary Anne, delivered the goodie package to the Lacayo household.
“Jim and I were overwhelmed by our visit,” Mary Anne wrote in an email that was shared with club members. “In spite of financial need and the life threatening-situation they face, they were so loving and accepting of what they have to face.”
It was a very touching moment for the entire Lacayo family.
“What you have done for Abby and our family is truly amazing,” Gina said. “Abby is over the moon with her iPad. I don’t think she has put it down since you left. We are beyond grateful and humbled beyond words.”
Abby and Gina also received another huge boost last month when they spent time with Bryce and Kristi Zimmer at their Melbourne home. The 12-year-old Bryce has gone through the exact same surgery Abby is facing and is doing quite well.
“Kristi saw the stories about Abby and we’ve been talking for quite some time,” Gina said. “She’s told me things the doctors don’t tell you and really supported me emotionally. She’s our cheerleader and a great support system, someone who really understands.”
As for Abby, meeting Bryce proved to be a very positive experience.
“She saw how healthy Bryce is and that meant a lot,” Gina said. “Bryce had the surgery when she was nine, the same as Abby, in the same grade and at the same time of year.”
If that’s not enough, Gina and Abby also received some more good news – Bryce and her family will be Minneapolis for her two-year follow-up appointment on Saturday.
“So Abby will get to spend time with Bryce before her surgery, which is great,” Gina said.
Stayed tuned to Villages-News.com in the coming days for updates on Abby’s surgery and the recovery period that will follow.