Child of the Month
By Judy & Larry Beaumont

     Cecilia Ramírez couldn’t be found that day. Margarita Maldonado, coordinator of Niños Incapacitados, asked various people in Mezcala if they had seen her. Cecilia’s mother deserted her long ago. Her father is dead, and her grandparents, who had cared for her, died recently. She suffers from convulsions and has an unidentified syndrome that makes her look very old. She is only 17.
     Another Niños client, Vanesa Sanabria Gutierrez was at home with her father, mother and five siblings. I try to watch only people’s faces on these visits so that I won’t betray how sad I feel at the poverty of their surroundings.
     The Sanbria/Gutierrez family is a happy-seeming group, but they are worried about Vanesa and the hole in her heart. They are forced to wait for yet another electrocardiogram appointment. Meanwhile, Vanesa and her younger sister Karina read their school books and giggled. They like school and Vanesa adores her teacher, Maestra Enedina.
     As we stood in the street to taking photos of the girls, a neighbor came to talk to Margarita about his child, who suffers from convulsions. Unexplained chronic convulsions are a puzzling and expensive problem lakeside. We took a quick case history and told the fellow how to find us when his wife returns from the hospital with the bills.
     Margarita wondered aloud later if it was poison in the fish or a genetic problem in the area where so many children are plagued with seizures.
     We walked gingerly on, with Vanesa’s sister Dina leading the way. Flies hovered on the streets and sidewalks, blanketing dog droppings and worse. At the home of Agripina de la Cruz, we were told that she was in the hospital in Guadalajara. Her heart is very weak and her prognosis is grim.
     Pedro Leobardo Sanabria and his younger brother were at home when we came to call. Pedro needs surgery soon for his heart condition. His mother says that his brother will have to wait, since he is not quite so tired as Pedro, and she cannot care for two heart patients at once. Tiny kittens scampered in the dirt at our feet as we talked.
     We continued to walk in the area, absently looking for burn victim Lupe Ramos then returned to the car and drove back toward the plaza. But although we were greeted by families that Niños Incapacitados had helped, we didn’t locate any more current patients.
     As we drove up the long hill out of Mezcala, we were waved over by 5 small boys. They asked for a ride to the fields where they intended to cut nopal cactus pads.
     When we pulled over to let them out of the car, one boy showed us that his mouth and teeth were deformed, and he asked if we could help his family pay for surgery. His mother had gone once to Hospital Civil in Guadalajara, but hadn’t been able to get him treatment. Margarita gave him her card and asked him to have his mother contact her. Help is available, but nobody can be forced to accept it.
     Regular monthly meetings of Niños Incapacitados resume on Thursday, September 4th at 10:00 a.m. in the bar area of La Nueva Posada. Newcomers are always welcome.