Marianas Variety

Last updateSat, 07 Dec 2019 12am







    Saturday, December 7, 2019-5:31:49A.M.






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UPDATED: Paralyzed girl inspires community

MANY people believe angels walk among us. Spend time with a girl named Dora and you’ll be convinced that angels lie among us too.

chc“How is it that a little girl can inspire strangers in far-away places to band together while the politicians make excuses and whine about how unfair life is,” wrote a Guam resident in an email to Variety in response to a story about Dora’s struggle for survival in CHC’s ICU.

Publicity generated from last Friday’s Variety story prompted the creation of a Facebook page titled “Paralyzed girl fights for survival,” which in a few days has already garnered 1,640 “friends.”

“The response has been amazing…I told Dora how she’s inspiring people in so many places and she really smiled,” said Jennifer-Gerald Ada Sablan, Dora’s upbeat but exhausted, 27-year-old mother.

Not only has a busy Facebook page been born but the liquid nourishment, PediaSure, has been arriving at the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s intensive care unit by the caseload.

Parents of a baby who recently died from a heart problem were the first to deliver PediaSure to CHC’s ICU on Saturday morning.

“I was in awe of this couple and choked back my own emotion,” one doctor said. “Their ability to give back so soon after they had experienced the greatest loss a parent could experience was an act of stunning and absolute grace that is rare in life.”

A day with determined Dora

The sight of a paralyzed child with a ventilator attached to a throat hole is indescribable and sobering.

For a parent, it’s almost unbearable until Dora locks her gorgeous, big brown eyes upon you and flutters her long eye-lashes.

In that moment the immobile 8-year-old third-grader grabs hold of your heart and transports you to a better place where hope and determination are as noticeable as the myriad of machines regulating each breath and monitoring her vital signs.

Dora once asked her mother, “Why are people crying when they visit me?”

This question encapsulates the courage of an intelligent, young child who was dancing just five short months ago and has enjoyed a parade of visitors in the last few days.

Dora’s massive impact on family, friends and strangers alike is no surprise to the staff at her elementary school, William S. Reyes.

School counselor Rebecca Flores pointed to the reading corner in the counseling center and recalled how Dora sat quietly on the carpet to read books and play with a special doll each morning before class.

“What a wonderful child Dora is, we all miss her so much…especially her classmates who ask about her every day,” stated Flores.

PSS psychologist and educational specialist Mary Anne Stewart smiled when remembering how Dora would run up to her each school morning and hug her intensely.

“Dora has a magic about her that is infectious and we all believe she is going to recover,” Stewart said.

For the current school-year, Dora is enrolled at WSR and will begin receiving lessons in her ICU hospital room as soon as the individual education plan, or IEP, is completed within the coming days.

Dora’s IEP team intends to provide the maximum amount of stimulation for the bed-ridden grade-schooler with the sharp mind and for now, the silenced voice.

Technology will play a key role in Dora’s re-integration in her third-grade class and WSR staff is calling on the community, near and far, for assistance.

“We would like to acquire an iPad and prepaid internet card for Dora’s CHC room and a webcam for the WSR classroom so she can see and hear the lessons in real-time,” explained the IEP team.

The effort by PSS to keep Dora intellectually engaged will accomplish a host of objectives above and beyond keeping her at grade-level knowledge.

Dora reveals her battle with boredom and loneliness after five-months of hospitalization on Saipan and the Philippines.

“I want to go home and be with the family,” Dora told her mother when asked what she most misses.

Giving Dora access to her classmates will keep her focused on the possibilities outside the graying walls of a hospital room while her wish to return home remains uncertain.

The cruel mystery

Five months ago, Dora began complaining of leg pains that increasingly kept her from attending school.

Sablan took Dora to CHC on several occasions and was told Dora’s pain was attributable to growing bones and would pass eventually.

In May, Dora began to experience numbness in place of the pain and again her mother sought help at the hospital.

Dora was admitted during the last visit but CHC did not have the capability to administer the preferred tests because of broken machines and inadequate supplies.

As the numbness rose from her legs to midsection and then both arms resulting in paralysis, Dora was medically evacuated to the Philippines for more detailed testing.

Unfortunately for the little girl, after two-months of hospitalization with four unsuccessful attempts at a spinal tap, Dora was flown back to CHC and readmitted.

The spinal tap could have provided liquid for analysis as to whether Dora succumbed to a bacterial or viral infection that most likely attacked her nerves with catastrophic results but her spinal cord was dry.

Not only do Dora and her family live with the uncertainty of not knowing what ails her, the future is also a big question mark.

Sablan wants Dora transferred to a medical facility in Charleston, South Carolina where her sister and brother-in-law lives.

“I pray the doctors there will review Dora’s medical history and agree to treat her…. My father is ready to move with her to the mainland and my sister has also made preparations,” Sablan said.

On Wednesday, Dora's family received news she was accepted for treatment at the Medical University of South Carolina and will be under the care of Dr. Steven Glazier, chief of the Division of Neurological Surgery of the Department of Neurosciences, and the director of pediatric neurological surgery.

The family's next step is to apply to the South Carolina Medicaid program to cover the cost of Dora's care.

Dora’s CHC medical team, for its part, is scheduled to hold a Friday meeting on her case and update the family on any progress concerning the medical evacuation.

In the meantime, Dora lies in her ICU bed blinking her eyes once for a “yes” answer and blinking twice for a “no.”

Visitors who share Dora’s positive, fighting attitude are welcome to stop by, read her books, bring light-weight, girly lap blankets and most importantly, offer smiles and sincere words of encouragement and company.

As an ever larger community builds and coalesces around Dora’s fight it seems there is one group too absorbed in their own problems to notice: the CNMI’s elected elite.

Not one lawmaker or the governor has bothered to call about Dora, visit or contribute to her needs.

According to Dora’s mother only Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan has reached out to assist the family in the past months.

“His support has meant a lot to us and his wife, Andrea, visited Dora on Sunday and helped the family financially and prayed with us,” Dora’s mother said.

One physician noted, on the condition of anonymity, the stark absence of political visitors compared to the general community.

“Isn’t it nice to know the elected officials’ own egos and self-preservation are more important than acknowledging a brave little girl fighting for her life…it’s an embarrassing and disgusting display of heartlessness.”

For those unable to visit Dora in person, you can offer encouragement and donations to a little girl with the indomitable fighting spirit on the Facebook group page at