Originally created 09/22/99

Medical treatment brings child some comfort



There is a new, more comfortable tube in her throat and a new feeding tube in her stomach. The present is brighter for Roxanna Garcia, even if the future is not.

The 4-year-old girl from Jimenez, Mexico, was discovered there in July by missionaries from White Oak Independent Methodist Church of Sandersville, Ga., and Faith Baptist Church of Chattanooga, Tenn. She had a large tracheotomy tube in her throat that forced her head to tilt back and weighed only 14 pounds because of difficulty eating and swallowing. She could neither walk nor speak. Touched by her plight, the churches raised $1,500 to fly the girl and her mother, Rosa, to the United States for treatment.

Unfortunately, an exam at Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Center found the girl suffers from Werdnig-Hoffman disease, a progressive neuromuscular disease also known as spinal muscular atrophy. There is no known treatment, although children can live months or years before succumbing to complications from the disease.

Last week, the girl had surgery at Washington County Regional Medical Center in Sandersville to put in a smaller tracheotomy tube and a feeding tube in her stomach. But remarkably, she seems to be eating better on her own, said Tom Austin, a member of the Sandersville church who has been helping the girl get treatment.

"The doctors are so impressed by how strong she is now," Mr. Austin said. "Other than having that (disease), she's doing good now."

And she has a new favorite treat, said Nancy Austin, Mr. Austin's wife.

"She's been introduced to chocolate and she loves it," Mrs. Austin said.

Doctors also have seen some improvement in her vocal cords that may allow her to speak again, Mr. Austin said. The girl has a doctor's appointment Thursday and then may head to Chattanooga and from there on to Mexico to reunite with the rest of her family.

The churches have agreed to be responsible for her medical bills and have raised $4,000, but the hospital bill is likely to be about $7,000, Mrs. Austin said.

"That's not enough to cover the hospital bill but the hospital in Sandersville was willing to work with us on that," Mr. Austin said, with the churches paying it off in monthly installments. The doctors who treated her have not asked for payment, he added. But the churches also face having to pay for a plane ticket back, which last time was about $1,500, Mrs. Austin said.

While they bear the financial burden, the churches have been more than rewarded with the results, Mrs. Austin said.

"We have seen such an improvement in her, I'd do it all over again," she said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213.

Donations

Churches in Georgia and Tennessee are shouldering the medical bills and travel expenses for Roxanna Garcia, a 4-year-old from Mexico who was treated in Sandersville, Ga. The hospital bill is expected to be $7,000, and tickets home could be $1,500. Donations to help with the expenses may be mailed to: Roxanna Garcia, c/o Pineview Baptist Church, P.O. Box 204232, Martinez, GA 30907. You may want to include a note on the check: "For Roxanna Garcia."