DOWNEY - New Year's Day 2012 almost crushed the life out of little Kimberly Moreno.The two-year-old child was riding with her family when the driver had a seizure, lost control of the car and slammed into a post with deadly results. Kimberly's mom was killed, her siblings injured, and Kimberly barely clung to life after her body was devastated in the crash. She lost the ability to breathe on her own, and is dependent on a ventilator to fill her lungs with air. She is paralyzed from the chin down. She needs someone to care for her around the clock. Although Kimberly lost her independence, she could have very easily died. She came to Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center for rehabilitation, which would help determine her future. Would she have the courage to fight for her life? With the help of her Rancho Pediatrics treatment team, Kimberly quickly gave her answer. She learned how to use a mouth stick and increased her endurance every day. As she approached her third birthday last week, Kimberly knew she would have to spend that important day in the hospital. So she and the Pediatrics staff, with the help of the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation, planned a birthday party fit for a princess. "Kimberly picked out the theme for her party, which was the Nickelodeon character Dora the Explorer," said Rancho Recreation Therapist Julie Helgren. "She also asked that everyone wear purple to her party." "She used her mouth stick to write invitations. Then she traveled around the Rancho campus and personally delivered invitations to everyone she invited," Julie said. Next, Kimberly picked out a piÃ±ata for her party and asked that it be filled with candy. So Julie spent an evening picking out candy and stuffing the piÃ±ata to capacity after work. "Kimberly has touched all our hearts because she is such a sweet and loving child," said Rancho Pediatric physician Melanie Sarino, MD. "She has tried so hard, and made great progress, especially considering the significant obstacles she faced after her accident. Everyone who worked with her was excited for her party." "With the funds provided by the Foundation, we were able to create a mini Dora Universe in the Activity Dining Room of the Pediatrics Unit," Julie said. "We not only bought Dora decorations, but also plates, cups, napkins, cupcakes, balloons and a bevy of Dora-themed gifts. She and her family loved it!" Family, friends and Rancho staff showed up dressed in purple. And the princess for a day smiled whenever she saw Dora, whether on a balloon, a napkin or a toy. "She smiled more during her party than she had smiled in weeks," Dr. Sarino said. "You could just feel her spirit soar every time she saw one of her Dora presents." And what presents she received - a singing microphone, a magna doodle that she can access with her mouthstick, books to help her learn numbers, a sleeping Dora doll, Dora socks, and even a Dora plate and bowl. "Things we wouldn't think twice about were such fun for Kimberly," said Julie. "When she got a piece of pizza, she was excited to be eating off a Dora plate. She smiled and laughed with her sisters as they played with their silly party prizes, and when she left the party, she knew that she was the special little girl of the day and Rancho's shining star." "More importantly, she could feel the love of everyone in the room," Julie added. "We don't know what Kimberly's future holds, but we have learned she is a very bright, loving and special girl," Dr. Sarino said. "Psychosocially, this little girl needs to be given the opportunity to feel special because of the tragic thing that has happened to her. She is also smart enough to know that her body is not responding like it did before the accident, but she continues to work hard to achieve as much progress as she can." "In working with her every day she has continued to overcome many obstacles in her path and continued to surprise and delight us in so many ways in her day-to-day therapy sessions," Julie said. "For patients such as Kimberly, it is crucial that they develop the will to continue to want to live every day. We know that Kimberly's party gave her a big boost of hope." Finally, it was bedtime for this special princess. Before she fell asleep, Julie played with her one more time with her new toys and especially her sing-a-long book and microphone. Kimberly had a Dora doll propped under her left arm and her Dora phone propped in her right arm. She was so excited to have her huge bouquet of balloons at the foot of her bed. Finally, she slipped into sleep. On a most special day, this little angel's dream had come true. For further information, call the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation at (562) 401-7053 or visit rancho.org, facebook.com/rancholosamigosrehab or twitter.com/ranchorehab.
********** Published: March 22, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 49