Mom goes all out for daughter’s surgery |

Mom goes all out for daughter’s surgery

John HartRachel Prendez and 15-month-old Erica Prendez play at Hennessy School's playground in Grass Valley Saturday.
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As if Rachel Prendez didn’t have enough to worry about with her baby’s approaching surgery, the Grass Valley woman has to raise $1,800 so the two of them can travel to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.

Fifteen-month-old Erica Prendez will have nerve reconstruction surgery that, if successful, will significantly increase her left arm’s range of motion. Born with Erb’s palsy or brachial plexus birth injury, Erica can’t bend her elbow or lift her arm.

The Prendezes will be in Houston Dec. 1 to 8. The surgery will be Dec. 4 at the Baylor College of Medicine-affiliated hospital.

“This is a very severe injury, especially her daughter’s,” said Dr. Rahul Nath, who will perform the surgery. “They often need aggressive surgical management to get the best outcome.”

The injuries are permanent, Nath added, and require lifelong management.

“Since these injuries occur in very young patients, the effects of the nerve injury are magnified due to growth issues,” Nath said. “The Brachial Plexus Clinic at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston is the foremost resource in the country – and probably the world – for these children.”

While the costs of the surgery, after-care and travel are covered, the family’s additional travel expenses include seven nights’ lodging, car rental, food and phone calls to Prendez’s 3-year-old daughter, who is staying home.

In addition, Rachel Prendez will miss two weeks of work at Golden Empire Convalescent Hospital when she takes care of Erica before and after the surgery.

“I have no idea how to raise money. I don’t have any family to borrow from. Her father is down in the L.A. area in a recovery home,” Prendez said. “I’m stuck. I’m trying to keep the costs down.”

She’s also understandably scared about her daughter’s surgery.

“I’m so stressed over the whole thing. I’m scared for her to have the surgery. She’s only 15 months old …,” Prendez said. “The only reason we have to go to Texas is I’ve had the Shriners say ‘no’ because she’s too old. Davis can’t, Stanford University doesn’t offer the extensive surgeries Texas will follow up with. She’ll have to have more than one surgery.”

Marge Biddle, a family support specialist with Foothills Healthy Babies in Nevada County, has visited the Prendez family every week since Erica was born.

The program provides free training and consulting services to new parents who may be overburdened. Thirty families are enrolled this year.

“I’ve been there since the beginning,” Biddle said warmly. “Erica’s a very determined, delightful little girl. She’s a very good-natured, happy child. She can’t use her left hand or arm very well. She finds ways to work around her handicap.”

Erica uses her right arm and hand in activities, Biddle said.

“Rachel and I were talking the other day about how Erica doesn’t yet suffer emotionally that she’s different,” Biddle said, “but if this is not addressed down the road, there is a potential of emotional damage from teasing by other children.”

Without surgery, Prendez said more physical damage will develop.

“If she doesn’t get the surgery done, the bones in her arms will stop growing and she’ll definitely look deformed. She’ll also have a chance to develop scoliosis of the spine and arthritis of the arm.”

The surgery is another hardship for the mother who once was homeless and jobless.

Prendez has supported her daughters and herself since graduating in July from a certified nursing assistant program.

“Rachel is a really good single mother. She’s trying very hard to provide the best she can for her children. She can use all the help she can get,” Biddle said.

To help defray the costs of the Prendezes’s trip, send checks to Foothills Healthy Babies, 400 Hoover St., Nevada City 95959. Checks should be made payable to Erica Prendez.

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