Young Rancho patient has a dream birthday

DOWNEY - Fairy tales do come true.It happened to Jamielyn Munoz, a beautiful girl who celebrated her fifth birthday with the Ultimate Princess Birthday Party at the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center Pediatrics Unit on December 30. Jamielyn has been hospitalized since last March as she fought a brain tumor that has challenged her with physical deficits. She breathes with the aid of a ventilator. She was bedridden when she was transferred from Children's Hospital-Los Angeles to Rancho on November 1. Following months of rehabilitation therapy, she is now able to sit up in a power wheelchair, which has given her the mobility that the tumor had taken away. She can also use her right hand and arm. Just like any other little girl, Jamielyn dreams of being a princess. Sleeping Beauty is her favorite. So as her fifth birthday approached, she asked her Rancho treatment team if she could have a princess birthday party. The Rancho Los Amigos Foundation was able to use funds generated from several "Fund a Miracle" appeals to create special birthday celebrations for Rancho's pediatric patients like Jamielyn. So her physical, occupational, recreation and speech therapists planned a fabulous party to make Jamielyn's birthday wish come true. "Jamielyn was originally going to be transferred from Children's Hospital to a skilled nursing facility," said Dr. Melanie Sarino of Rancho's Pediatrics Department. "But because her family had such a strong desire to have her home, and because our colleagues at Children's Hospital were so caring, she came to Rancho to gain the mobility and strength necessary to be home." Rancho got her a power wheelchair for mobility. And even though she has been on chemotherapy, she has steadily gained strength. At the same time, Rancho therapists have trained her mom so that she can manage Jamielyn's ventilator and provide her the special care she will need when she returns home. Rancho also helped Jamielyn integrate back into the community. She has been on many outings to places kids love, such as the movies, to Chuck E. Cheese, and even to Disneyland. "Jamielyn has a very strong will to live, a very deep love for life, and a very big heart," Dr. Sarino said. "The chemotherapy gives her nausea and makes her weak, but she never gives up. She has regained so much strength it is truly amazing." When it came time to prepare for her princess party, Jamielyn worked with her therapists to make cupcakes for her guests. She also made invitations and passed them out to her fellow pediatric patients and Rancho staff members. Rancho volunteers blew up giant mylar princess balloons to fill the room with color. There were streamers, confetti, and presents…all fit for a princess. Rancho staff members dressed up as various Disney princes and princesses. Jamielyn wore the gown of Sleeping Beauty, her favorite princess. She had a birthday cake and a pi?±ata., and then who should appear but Sleeping Beauty herself! The princess played games, told stories, sang songs and painted the faces of all the kids in attendance. Then it was time to open her gifts from the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation and her clinical team. The greatest gift of all was an iPad. Her therapists had been working with her so that she could learn, read, play games and improve her finger strength by using the Pediatric Department's iPad. She hoped that one day she might have one of her own, but her family could not possibly afford it. Then suddenly, she had one of her own! Jamielyn's joyous smile and shining eyes lit up the room. "The birthday party was perfect," her mom said. "We love her so much, but it is good to know that she also has the love of everyone at Rancho. She is so happy!" Next Wednesday, Jamielyn will be returning home to her family, and the Munoz family dream of having their daughter back home will have come true. "We are delighted that Jamielyn has progressed enough to rejoin her family," said Occupational Therapist Jennifer Bashar. "We want to thank everyone who helped make her Rancho birthday a beautiful memory that will last forever." The Rancho team filled a binder with pictures so Jamielyn would never forget her magical princess birthday, held at Rancho in a room filled with love all around her. It was truly a day when she was Rancho's princess…once upon a dream.

********** Published: January 13, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 39

FeaturesEric Pierce