Like his friends, sixteen year-old Oscar Abrego enjoys playing soccer and spending time on Facebook. Unlike them, however, he is engaged in a battle for well-being he hopes his friends will never have to fight. When Oscar was ten, he fractured his left elbow in a fall at school in Mexicali. “I remember the pain,” he says; “but most of all I remember that I couldn’t pick myself up from the ground.”
Local doctors performed two surgeries on Oscar’s elbow – one to repair the fracture, after which Oscar lost feeling in his arm from the elbow down and his fingers curled stubbornly inward, and the other to relieve the post-surgical condition. When this treatment did not restore feeling and function, the then eleven-year-old was given the option of a third surgery that would open his hand but fuse the bones of his fingers together, permanently immobilizing them. It was all his doctors could offer.
“I had to find another answer for Oscar,” says Maricela Franco, Oscar’s mother. “I knew in my heart that there would be a place where Oscar could find help and healing.”
A friend told Mrs. Franco about the Los Angeles Orthopaedic Hospital (LAOH) pediatric orthopaedic clinics held in Calexico, California, and in Mexicali, Mexico. Oscar was first seen in Mexicali, and LAOH’s International Children’s Program arranged permission for him to travel to the United States. There Dr. Joan Wright, a hand and wrist specialist, and Dr. Cindy Bailey, a physical therapist, put together a course of treatment for Oscar that included surgery to remove excess scar tissue and release his fingers, along with weekly physical therapy to regain the necessary strength and mobility in his wrist and fingers to fully grasp a soccer ball or zoom around a computer keyboard.
“They are angels,” states Mrs. Franco. “Everyone continues to help my son get better. This is the place of hope, help and healing that I knew we would find. I am very grateful.”
Oscar’s determination, and the outstanding patient-centered, coordinated care provided by LAOH physicians and staff, have come together to shine a light at the end of what has sometimes seemed a very long tunnel to Oscar and his mom. As proof, there’s one thing this young man of few words does not hesitate to say: “I am hopeful.”