For many, visiting a hospital for any reason whatsoever is nightmarish. For Angelina Garcia, however, after three years of routine visits to Madera County’s Valley Children’s Hospital, donating time to help a hospital can have a nice sound to it.
Angelina Garcia, 21, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in March of 2014, during her freshman year of college. When discovered, the tumor was only the size of a pea.
“It was really a shock,” Garcia said. “I started getting a little dizzy, but it just came out of nowhere.”
Despite the tumor’s initially minute size, within a few weeks it grew to the size of a golfball. As a result of the tumor’s advanced growth, Garcia’s surgery that was originally planned for late April 2014 was quickly moved up.
Garcia underwent emergency surgery at UC San Francisco in order to remove as much of the tumor as possible. After a successful surgery, Garcia was transferred to Valley Children’s for what was expected to be a short recovery period.
However, because the tumor began to grow back, Garcia’s road to recovery has been a long and enduring one. For three months following her surgery, she was unable to walk without assistance. After six months, she progressed to a walker, and in October of 2015, more than a year after her surgery, she began to use a cane.
Garcia said that she was always able to keep a positive spirit because, regardless of the physical impediments, she was always aware of her condition. Once she began to use a cane, Garcia chose not to let her physical disability define her by purchasing a cane stylized with a cheetah design that she found graceful.
“Going through physical therapy really helped me to get back on my feet,” Garcia said.
As a result of the now stable brain tumor, Garcia suffers from partial facial paralysis and hearing loss, but feels fortunate that she has recovered so well.
This is a large part of the reason that she felt so inclined to donate her time to Kids Day fundraiser in early March of this year. As the third anniversary of her diagnosis loomed, Garcia felt the need to give back.
“You feel good contributing back to the community and as a patient I know how the hospital helped me,” Garcia said.
That Kids Day, the 30th for Valley Children's Healthcare Foundation, raised a record breaking total of $628,611. “We have a number of volunteers that have helped us as the result of past illness,” foundation manager Molly Marquez said. “They all seem to have a great time with volunteering.”
With plans to continue to donate time to Valley Children’s, Garcia has only request.
“There are a lot of volunteers, but I would like to see even more former patients volunteer,” Garcia said. “Before I got sick, I never really thought that a single dollar would make a big difference, but I know better now. It gives you a special perspective.”
After much work in physical therapy, Garcia returned to Reedley College where she is majoring in Liberal Studies. After graduation this year, she plans to attend Fresno State University in the fall in the hopes of becoming an elementary school teacher.
Brandon Rowe is a student in Gary Rice’s community journalism class at California State University, Fresno.