Painful wait finally over as Wildwood Elementary student Abby undergoing much-needed surgery

The day has finally arrived.

After a long, painful battle with Hereditary Chronic Pancreatitis and Gastro Paresis, 9-year-old Abigail “Abby” Lacayo sees relief in sight. That’s because the straight-A fourth-grade Wildwood Elementary student who has captured the hearts of Villagers and tri-county residents alike is finally undergoing the much-needed surgery to remove her pancreas, spleen and gallbladder, while also having islet cells transplanted into her liver.

From left: Kristy and Bryce Zimmer, Gina and Abby Lacayo, and Ellie and Jane Schugel. Abby is undergoing a complicated surgery to remove her pancreas, spleen and gallbladder, while also having islet cells transplanted into her liver. Bryce and Ellie had the same procedure done two years ago.

Abby’s highly complicated surgery is taking place in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital. The youngster – she has made it clear that she plans to be a doctor one day – and her parents, Denis and Gina, have been in Minnesota for more than a week, as Abby had to attend several preoperative appointments and go through a variety of testing. But if things go according to plan, the days of excruciating pain and bloating will be behind her once and for all.

“Abby is a little nervous and anxious but excited to be getting it done, finally,” Gina said Tuesday afternoon, adding that her daughter is struggling a bit because she hasn’t been able to eat anything all day prior to the surgery. “She is very hungry!”

Wildwood Elementary student Abby Lacayo was all bundled up as she experienced snow for the first time.

Gina said the past few days have been quite busy for the family, as they have had many appointments to attend. And since Abby will immediately become a diabetic following the surgery, they’ve had to go through training on how to handle that disease as well.

But there’s been some great moments for Abby since arriving in Minneapolis. She thoroughly enjoyed seeing and playing in snow for the first time. And she’s been able to spend some time at the Ronald McDonald House, where the family is staying, with two young girls who went through the same surgery two years ago and now are doing quite well. Both of the girls were at the hospital this week for their two-year follow-up appointments.

Ellie Schugel, center, and Bryce Zimmer, right, paid a visit to Abby Lacayo at the Ronald McDonald House where she and her family are staying near the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. Ellie and Bryce have undergone the same surgery Abby is having done.

One, 12-year-old Bryce Zimmer, lives in Melbourne and Gina and Abby have become good friends with her and her mother, Kristy. The other, Ellie Schugel, lives in Minneapolis and was visiting with Abby’s family along with her mother, Jane.

“We talked about all the little details of the surgery and what to expect,” Gina said.

Not surprisingly, Gina said she and her husband’s nerves are “on the edge” as they await the process that should put their daughter on the road to good health.

“We have a lot of support,” Gina said, adding that the family will be at the hospital at 5:30 a.m. for the procedure to get under way.

Abby Lacayo and her family are staying at a Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis.

As for all of those who have followed Abby’s story and said plenty of prayers for her, Gina said she’ll never be able to express how much all of that love means to her and her family.

“We couldn’t have made it this far without all of the kindness and support of everyone,” she said. “We are beyond grateful that our daughter is finally getting the help she needs.”

Villager Faye Scher poses with Abby Lacayo recently. Scher is a volunteer at Abby’s school, Wildwood Elementary, and a member of the charity-oriented Gilchrist West Social Club. Scher also started a GoFundMe account to help offset expenses for Abby’s family.

For those wishing to help the Lacayo family, Villager Faye Scher has set up a GoFundMe account. Scher (, a volunteer at Abby’s school and a member of the charity-oriented Gilchrist West Social Club, has been doing everything in her power to help the Lacayo family and is encouraging everyone who can to make a donation to help offset the expenses.

Abby Lacayo shows off the Christmas decorations that were provided for the door of their accommodations at the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis, near the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Abby’s GoFundMe account was at $25,783 of a $40,000 goal. So far, 361 people have contributed to the effort in seven months. The highest donation is $1,500, which was followed by a $1,000 gift. And the link to the GoFundMe page has been shared 996 times on Facebook.

Scher also is hoping that Villagers and other 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.

Cards can be mailed to Abby Lacayo c/o Ronald McDonald House, 621 Oak Street SE, Room No. 311, Minneapolis, MN 55414.

At left: Nine-year-old Abigail ‘Abby’ Lacayo revealed her plans to become a doctor recently during career day at Wildwood Elementary School. Center, top and bottom: Abby is no stranger to doctor visits. Center: Abby reads to her dog. Right: Abby dressed up as the ‘Pancreatitis Superhero” for Halloween this year.