Saturday, September 26, 2020

13-Year-Old Student Hospitalized with a Heart Condition


(Left to Right) Gabi, Patsy, & Iliana. Photo taken November 2019.

Patsy García is a Civics teacher who has taught at the Marco Island Charter Middle School for over 5 years now. Ms. García has two daughters, Gabriela and Iliana, who also attend the middle school. Her eldest daughter, Gabi, is an 8th-grade cheerleader, but also an altar server at the San Marco Catholic Church. Unfortunately, back in November while she was attending Thanksgiving dinner with her family out in Texas, Gabi García suffered an episode where her heartrate dropped. Since then, she’s remained in Texas with her mother and is undergoing treatment.

Even as she was looking after her ill daughter all the way in Texas, Ms. Patsy García took time from her busy schedule to tell me the entire story over the phone. Gabi’s condition is not something that just happened overnight; it all began a year and a half ago during the Summer of 2018. Ms. García had taken her daughters to Texas to spend time with their grandparents, when suddenly, 12-year-old Gabi had her first episode. Her heart rate had spiked through the roof, as if her “heart was going to pop” as she described it. Ms. García rushed her daughter to a pediatrician, yet despite monitoring her for the night, the doctor had dismissed Gabi’s condition as a side effect of a cold, nothing cardiac-related.

Despite the doctor’s claim, their troubles were only beginning. Upon returning to Florida, Gabi began to have short episodes over the year. Her heart rate would just spike up at varying degrees. Short as they were, the problems became so frequent that Gabi began seeing a cardiologist. However, even with the doctor’s aid, there was still the issue of identifying the problem. Due to the nature of Gabi’s episodes being so short and random, her doctor was only capable of treating her AFTER the episode had passed, never during. Which means trying to pinpoint the exact cause had become a challenge. Ms. García described it as, “Like when you take your car in because it makes a noise, but when you take it to a mechanic, it stops making the noise.”

The episodes soon began to get stronger, however. First, Gabi would feel a great pain in her chest, and after the heart spike finally stops, she’d be left exhausted. The spikes were so random they could happen during the long hours of the night. And for three days after an episode, Gabi would be left feeling fatigued and have a soreness in her chest.

Then, in November of this year, when she and her family went to Texas for Thanksgiving, Gabi suffered her worst episode yet. Her heart was overworking, to the point where it looked like she was going to pass out. She was taken to Providence Children’s Hospital in El Paso where the doctors ran blood work on her. While her EKG (Electrocardiogram) had come back normal, they had discovered one abnormality in her, and it was her troponin levels. For those who don’t know, troponin is an enzyme that the heart creates when it’s been damaged. In most cases, when the levels reach 79, it’s considered critically high. And during Gabi’s first night in the hospital, her levels had reached a staggering 400, then soon rose to 4,800! To make matters worse, they have yet to decipher the root of Gabi’s problem. As many out there will know, the heart is a stubborn and tricky muscle to work around, and determining the exact issue is just as tricky; and in Gabi’s case, the problem is definitely not due to her age.

Photos by Patsy García | In the future, Gabi García would like to be a pediatric cardiologist, a teacher or an attorney. Photo taken September 2019.

As I write this, Gabi García is still in Texas, though she has been moved from El Paso over to Houston where she is now under the care of a Doctor Jorge Salazar who runs a private practice.

Ms. García just wants an answer, and she’s dedicating her time and resources to helping her daughter in whatever way she can. However, there’s now a new issue getting in the way, and that’s covering the fees. Hospital bills are the worst gift that just keeps on giving, and Gabi’s situation is no different. There is something that can be done about it though, and you can help. Patsy García said it best, “When one door closes, it always feels like another will always open.”

The teachers of Marco Island Charter Middle School have started a donation fund to aid the García family. All you have to do is go online to Gofundme.com, then in the search bar in the top left corner of the homepage type in Gabi Garcia-Rios. It’ll take you to the page where you can make a donation, and even leave an encouraging comment for the family. Remember, every dollar counts. 

It’s been a long and rocky toad for the García family, yet after everything that has happened, Ms. García feels they’re moving forward. I don’t think she could have made that clearer as she told me in a trembling but grateful voice, “Although it’s been scary, I have to remember that my family and I are blessed. My coworkers and the Marco Community have been very helpful. I really appreciate their support. I’m forever indebted.”

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