Wildwood Elementary student Abby on long road to recovery after complicated surgery

Wildwood Elementary School student Abigail “Abby” Lacayo has come through a complicated surgery and is now on the long road to recovery.

Abigail ‘Abby’ Lacayo has captured the hearts of Villagers and other tri-county residents alike as they’ve followed her story this past year. Last Wednesday, surgeons at the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis removed her pancreas, spleen and gallbladder, while also transplanting islet cells into her liver.

The 9-year-old, who has captured the hearts of Villagers and tri-county residents alike, went through a complicated surgery last week in Minneapolis that saw a team of specialized surgeons remove her pancreas, spleen and gallbladder, while also transplanting islet cells into her liver.

Prior to the surgery, which was done at the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital, Abby had suffered from Hereditary Chronic Pancreatitis and Gastro Paresis – conditions that brought on bouts of excruciating pain and bloating.

Wildwood’s Abby Lacayo, shortly after surgeons removed her pancreas, spleen and gallbladder and transplanted islet cells into her liver during a 12-hour procedure.

Abby’s mom, Gina, expressed relief after the 12-hour surgery was completed and her daughter was in the pediatric intensive care unit to start her road to a full recovery.

“The surgeon told us her pancreas was severely damaged – shriveled and atrophied and very ugly,” Gina said. “He said we couldn’t have waited any longer.”

Gina said Abby, a straight-A fourth-grader, is experiencing quite a bit of pain but the medical team at the hospital is managing it and keeping an extremely close eye on her. She said Abby has been nauseated and vomiting and one of the fluids in her drain has changed colors and concerned doctors. And to make matters worse, Gina said, her husband, Denis, developed a fever and can’t come into Abby’s room for fear of getting her sick.

“So I am doing it all alone,” Gina said Sunday, while offering high praise for the nurses and doctors who are caring for Abby. “They are wonderful. They are going to change up some meds to see if we can get some relief.”

Prior to last week’s surgery, 9-year-old Abby Lacayo had suffered from Hereditary Chronic Pancreatitis and Gastro Paresis – conditions that brought on bouts of excruciating pain and bloating.

Gina said Abby’s doctors determined she had two bacterial infections in her pancreas. That means the crucial islet cells that were transplanted back into her liver also could be infected, but Gina said Abby’s medical team is all over that situation as well.

“She is currently on three antibiotics and they will be adding another,” she said. “They are watching her for sepsis.”

A bank of monitors and other equipment at the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital keeps a close eye on 9-year-old Abby Lacayo’s vital signs and overall condition.

The transplanting of the islet cells from her pancreas, which produces insulin for the body, was important for Abby, Gina said, because she now faces a 50-percent chance of becoming permanently diabetic. But doctors told Gina they are hopeful that even though the “islet yield was a little low,” Abby might eventually become insulin independent.

Abby’s physicians also have her on a feeding tube, which Gina said could be in place anywhere from one to four months.

“Every case is different,” she said. “But since she had gastroparesis prior to surgery, it make take a little longer for her.”

Not surprisingly, Abby’s medical team wasted little time in starting her on the road to recovery. On Friday – just two days after the surgery – Gina said it was time for her daughter to get out of her hospital bed.

“Physical therapy came and got her up into her chair for a little while,” Gina said, adding that walking was next on the agenda. “They say the faster they get up and move, the faster they recover.”

The medical team at the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis wasted little time in getting 9-year-old Abby Lacayo out of her hospital bed to start her road to recovery. ‘They say the faster they get up and move, the faster they recover,’ said Abby’s mom, Gina.

Prior to her surgery last week, Abby received quite a boost at the Ronald McDonald House where she and her family are staying at no cost. Gina said her daughter’s spirits were raised greatly when she was visited by 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 Masonic Children’s Hospital last 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 went through last Wednesday.

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.

Meanwhile, here in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown, Abby has been atop the minds of many residents who have followed her story on Villages-News.com. That’s especially true for Faye Scher, a Village of Gilchrist resident who volunteers at Abby’s school and has been there to offer support and help every step of the way – including starting a GoFundMe account to help offset the enormous expenses the family is facing. As of Sunday afternoon, the account was sitting at $27,708 of a $40,000 goal.

“Everyone has fallen in love with Abby through social media,” said Scher, who also is a member of the charity-oriented Gilchrist West Social Club. “The community is sending Get Well Cards, Christmas Cards, and some have sent small gifts.”

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.

One group, the Amigos Sports Club, even came together and presented Abby with an iPad and other gifts before she and her family departed for Minnesota.

Scher said this past Wednesday – Abby’s surgery day – was a long one for her as well.

“I personally have become close to the family and stayed up Wednesday night until I knew she was OK,” Scher said. “I was relieved to get the good news that the surgery was a success late that evening. I will FaceTime her when she is up to it.”

Scher, who can be reached at fscher@aol.com, 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. Those can be mailed to Abby Lacayo c/o Ronald McDonald House, 621 Oak Street SE, Room No. 311, Minneapolis, MN 55414. Those who wish to donate to Abby’s GoFundMe account can do so by clicking HERE.

While Abby Lacayo faces a long road to recovery, she will be able to move forward from the painful days of dealing with Hereditary Chronic Pancreatitis and Gastro Paresis.
Abby Lacayo and her mother, Gina, cooked a big Thanksgiving meal for their entire family. They will be in Minnesota on Christmas Day following Abby’s surgery, so the November holiday provided a chance for the entire family to come together.
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, Zoey. Right: Abby dressed up as the ‘Pancreatitis Superhero” for Halloween.