Last December, The Maldonados faced a daily battle. They struggled both financially and emotionally as they tried to discover what was keeping their premature baby girl, Ava, from digesting food and liquids. At the end of their rope, parents Mike and Vanessa described sleepless night and routines that consisted of Pedialyte and constant vomiting.
"My fear is that I'm going to turn my head for a second, or go to sleep for thirty minutes, and Ava is going to be gone."
Ava, born premature, is unable to digest formula, medicine and/or water. Her parents said doctors ruled out acid reflux and common digestion problems like pyloric stenosis. At the time, they had no diagnosis.
"She was aspirating and choking all the time," said Vanessa.
Lacking proper nutrition, she dropped to eight pounds at the age of three months. Her parents said it was a daily fear that they would lose their daughter.
However, the community reached out, via a fundraising link on Youcaring.com. Countless donations and helpful tips led the family to a doctor in Baton Rouge.
"She finally just diagnosed her with gastroparesis," began Vanessa," which is where she doesn't digest food completely. Her stomach doesn't digest food quick enough, which was causing her to throw up."
Their parenting instincts paid off. Two weeks ago, Ava has surgery. Nissen Fundoplication, a surgery that will allow her esophagus and stomach to function normally, and finally give her the chance to digest.
"It's just so nice to pick her up and not wonder is she going to throw up? Is she hurting? Is she going to be aspirating?"
Ava now received small amounts of bottle feeding throughout the day to ensure she doesn't forget how to suckle; but for the most part, a machine is her main food source supply.
"She has two connectors; one for the bolus feed and one for the continuous feed and you hook it to the machine and just let it run."
She goes through a can of formula almost daily, a cost Mike said is quickly adding up.
"Six cans to a case and each case is about 200 dollars."
The family is breathing a huge sigh of relief, now that their daughter is on the road to becoming a healthier baby, but they are still struggling financially.
"It definitely does give us peace of mind knowing that we weren't just crazy parents," Mike explained."It's hard for me because I'm supposed to be the provider, and I'm the one that has been out there, asking for donations and its humiliating, but it's necessary."
The surgery, coupled with the mounting costs of food, is causing another financial strain. In addition, Ava needs constant supervision, and the family has been unable to find an appropriate daycare. This is keeping Vanessa from working, and with Ava needed the machine for the next year, they are unsure they will be able to afford the bare essentials.
The Maldonados say they will continue to do what they did from the beginning. They will stop at nothing to ensure their daughter's health is fully restored and they can afford the roof over their heads.
If you would like to help, visit youcaring.com. In the box, type in "Ava's Fight." Click on the link to donate.