Surgeons offer hope to local woman

After 25 years crippled and in pain, modern surgical techniques offer hope to local woman

By Adelle Morgan-Cordero

Every so often a person of truly extraordinary character crosses our path, someone who has faced life’s most daunting obstacles with rare grace, courage and optimism.  I am honored to know such a person, but she is at a crossroads and badly in need of help.

This is her story.

A BICYCLE ACCIDENT AT AGE 12 left Carolina “Caro” Lopez crippled. Upon impact, the bicycle seat apparently broke her femur (thigh bone) and hip, and shoved the bones upward into her abdomen. Her financially strapped parents were unable to obtain first-rate medical help for Caro and her condition steadily worsened.  Two years later, with Caro bedridden and her survival at stake, doctors surgically implanted a type of now-obsolete steel plate and screws in a desperate attempt to repair her leg, hips and pelvis. The doctors then told Caro that — if she lived – she’d never walk again, and would never lead a normal life or be able to have children.

Although the plate did provide stabilization, Caro was indeed unable to walk. Her muscles had atrophied and her legs had twisted and were virtually useless. 

DESPITE THE DOCTOR’S DIRE PREDICTIONS, Caro survived, and eventually decided to take rehabilitation into her own hands. After researching the subject, Caro began swimming for hours every day.  Over time, the strenuous daily aquatic workouts helped strengthen and straighten her muscles until, eventually (miraculously, in the doctors’ opinions), Caro walked. 

It was with pain, awkwardly and inelegantly, with limited movement and slightly deformed legs … but she walked! And though deprived of activities that were normal for most young women, Caro smiled and got on with her life!

Caro and best friend Zuzu

YEARS LATER CARO MARRIED and started working toward a university degree in Psychology in Guadalajara. It was a positive, seemingly productive time in her life. She enjoyed her classes and made friends. My daughter-in-law Zuzu became her best friend, which is how I came to know Caro.  I was immediately captivated by her warm heart, cheerful disposition and positive attitude.

Ten years into her marriage, Caro’s husband decided he wanted children after all, which Caro was unable to give him. So he left her. She tried to remain in college, but about halfway through her course of study she was forced to drop out and work to support herself. 

FOR THE NEXT FEW YEARS, Caro worked at various jobs and at a serious relationship with a new man in her life.  Then a little over a year ago — much to everyone’s surprise — Caro discovered she was pregnant. Wow, big surprise is an understatement!! She was ecstatic!  Being a mother was a seemingly unattainable, lifelong dream. It was the happiest moment of her life, full of joy and promise.

The longtime boyfriend saw things differently.  Unlike her former husband, the boyfriend had no desire to become a dad. When he found out Caro was pregnant, he made a quick exit from her life.  

With a bolted pelvis, hip and leg, carrying a baby was no easy task. But it seemed nothing could dampen Caro’s happiness over her coming child.  Being pregnant and unable to work, she moved back in with her mother and father. Although she had never shared a closeness with her mother, her father was a lifelong champion. 

Shortly afterward, Caro’s beloved father – her lone familial ally — was diagnosed with cancer.  He died in Caro’s fifth month of pregnancy. His loss was devastating.  Only the soon-to-be-born baby made his loss bearable.

ON NOV. 10, 2017, AT FULL-TERM, a beautiful baby boy was born by cesarean section. Caro named him Gael Alexander. Tragically, due to a rare heart defect, little Gael wasn’t destined to live.  With his heart slowly failing, Caro held him in her arms and sang to him until he died the following day.  There are no words to describe the depth of loss and despair Caro suffered.

With no home or family support, Caro moved to Ixtlahuacán (just north of Chapala) and briefly stayed with our son and daughter-in-law during her early physical and emotional recovery from Gael’s birth. The physical part was the easiest; the emotional recovery is ongoing.  But Caro doesn’t regret one minute of the pregnancy and birth.  “I am changed forever,” she says, “I will always be a mother, even though my child is in Heaven.”

SO, HERE WE ARE IN 2019.  Caro lives alone and supports herself by working in the kitchen of a local restaurant, where she can remain seated. Her salary is $1200-pesos (about $60 dollars) a week.

The 22-year-old plate and screws in her leg were never meant to be anything but a short-term fix.  The passage of time, combined with the strain of pregnancy and childbirth, is causing Caro’s bones to disintegrate. Naturally, this means her pain level is increasing dramatically. Without surgery, doctors say, the bones will continue to crumble, and she is facing life-threatening infection and possibly amputation.

Doctors and orthopedic surgeons at the Hospital Civil envision a pain-free life with near full mobility for Caro, IF – in a series of three surgeries — she has the metal plates removed and both hip joints (which are collapsed) replaced as soon as possible.  The urgency of her situation has helped move her toward the front of the line medically speaking. Recent tests indicate that Caro is an excellent candidate for double hip replacement surgery. 

Fortunately, a portion of costs for these very expensive surgeries will be covered by the Hospital Civil and Mexico’s Seguro Popular healthcare program. However, many associated costs — including the prosthetic hip devices — are not covered, and are completely out-of-reach on Caro’s meager earnings.

IN WRITING CARO’S STORY, it is my hope that some of the many kind and generous people in our community and beyond will choose to open their hearts and their wallets to help Caro obtain the surgeries that offer a normal, mobile and pain-free life.

In order to cover expenses such as the two prosthetic hips, medications, lab tests, transportation, blood transfusions, physical therapy, lost wages, raised toilet seat and other devices, etc. an estimated $8,000 USD is needed.

If you would like to donate, funds can be sent to Caro via the means shown below.

     If you are unable to donate, your prayers and well wishes for Caro are sincerely appreciated, as well as a LIKE and SHARE of her Facebook page. 

For more information, updates and a complete list of needed items and estimated expenses, visit:

      •  Facebook page Ayuda a Caro a Caminar (Helping Caro to Walk).

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UPDATE 15 FEB 2019:

Today Caro was let go from her $60-dollar-a week, sit-down job in a local restaurant kitchen due to her boss’ growing worry over her fragile condition. They are holding a place for her when she recovers, but for the moment she will owe rent, utilities and medical bills and has no income at all.

So, if anyone out there has or knows of any type of work she can do from home (or that requires little standing or walking), please let us know.  Caro is educated, very intelligent and personable. She would make an excellent front desk receptionist, for example .

UPDATE 17 FEB 2019:

Carolina entered the Hospital Civil today for her first surgery tomorrow. She is in a ward-style room with about 20 other patients. This surgery is to remove the metal plate and screws on her femur (thigh bone). Surgeons report having rented special tools to remove bone that has grown around the metal over the past 22 years. 

Caro is in good spirits and friends will be taking turns caring for her ‘round-the-clock, as is standard in many Mexican hospitals with limited nurses.

Thanks to donations and a hospital discount due to Caro’s indigent status, costs for this first surgery have been met. Once the surgeons take a look inside, they will determine what type of prosthetic hips will work

Several members of Caro’s team of doctors (Drs. Arguelles, De La Torre, Gomez, Cardenas, Enriquez, Magallon and Fregoso) discuss her X-rays.

best for her. Then we will have a better estimation of the costs Caro will have to pay. 

Doctors want to wait six months for the fragile bone to mend and fill in the gaps left by the metal rod and screws. This gives her six months to come up with funds to do the first total hip replacement. 

We might mention one other need, a raised toilet seat that we are told would be very helpful for Caro. If anyone has one they could donate or lend or sell at a low price, please contact us. Thank you all!!

P.S. Due to a technical error with Paypal (an extra period in the email) several donations to Caro did not go through and were refunded. It is all set up and working correctly now, but if you made a donation prior to last night, please verify your refund and re-issue your kind donation. Thanks and very sorry for the bother.

Caro (R) and best friend Zuzu (L) after surgery to remove the metal plate and screws. Doctors want to perform the first total hip replacement in six months, after the femur has mended.

UPDATE 20 FEB 2019:

Caro ‘s 5-hour surgery to remove the metal plate and screws was a success. After the surgery, her team of doctors at the Hospital Civil commented that when they first opened up her leg, no metal at all was visible; bone had completely grown over it. Fortunately, they had foreseen that in advance, and rented tools to chip away the bone and remove the screws.

Caro was released from the hospital last nite. She was brought to Zuzu’s (her best friend’s) house for recovery care. Getting Caro up a full flight of stairs was no easy task, but Caro took her time and inched up using one leg and her arms.

Prescribed medications (Tramadol, Desketoprofeno, Xarelto, Cefalexina, etc.) and wound treatment supplies totaled well over $3000 pesos, but contributions covered this expense.

She is to return to the Hospital Civil for progress assessment in 2 weeks.

P.S. A needed raised toilet seat has been donated by a very kind person in Tlaquepaque.  We only need to go pick it up. Shortly we plan to print the names of all who are helping.  Thank you to everyone!

UPDATE 25 FEB 2019: 

A full week has now passed since Caro’s first surgery where doctors removed the metal plate and screws implanted as a youngster. She is being cared for in the home of her best friend, Zuzu, and is recovering nicely.  One more week and she will have the stitches removed.

To date, donations received have gone toward the required patient portion of the first surgery and hospital costs, post-op medications, and a very used but still serviceable recliner. A wheelchair and walker have been lent to her, and a raised toilet seat has been donated.

In retrospect, when she was released from the hospital, we wish we had videotaped her valiant trip from the car to the upstairs duplex where she is staying.  It would have been movie-length, but Caro did it all, inch-by-inch, with just one leg and an occasional shoulder to lean on. She was shaking at the top of the stairs, but victorious!

Although she cannot (and has been instructed not to) put any weight at all on her left leg yet, she is getting around a little with the aid of the walker.  The leg is very delicate at this point, being riddled with holes previously occupied by the plate and seven large screws. But every day she can bend the leg a little more, and is looking forward to full and pain-free mobility after the next surgeries, one is six months and the other in a year.

Our next goal is to come up with the money to pay for the prosthetic hip devices. These are very expensive and not provided by Mexico’s health care to the indigent. Anyone wanting to help can donate to:

If you are unable to donate, your prayers and well wishes for Caro are sincerely appreciated also, as well as a LIKE and SHARE of her Facebook pages;

  • Help Caro to Walk (English)
  • Ayuda a Caro a Caminar (Español)

For more information, updates and a complete list of needed items and estimated expenses, follow Caro’s facebook pages. Thank you all!

UPDATE 15 APRIL 2019: 

Carolina returned to the Hospital Civil this past week for her consultation two months after her first surgery in preparation for future hip transplants. For the first time since the surgery, she was able to consult directly with the surgeon and obtain an overview of what is ahead. 

Although still in pain, she is recovering nicely. She has been given the go-ahead to begin putting a small amount of weight on her left leg.  She has also been instructed to begin physical therapy to strengthen and gain the use of her left leg.  Swimming is most recommended, she was told.

She is also being scheduled for other exams and diagnostic tests to ensure she is in optimum condition for the hip transplant surgery.  She will be going in for thorough cardiac testing, a gynecological exam, evaluation by an anesthesiologist, and any needed dental work.

Following a thumbs-up from all these specialists, the first (and most urgently needed) total hip transplant will be scheduled in September or shortly afterward, and the 2nd transplant sometime next year. The surgeon estimated the cost of the prosthetic hip devices only — which must be paid by Caro — are $45,000 pesos each, or $90,000 total.

Thanks to It’s Kinda Bazar and other caring folks, Caro is on her way to having the cost of the first hip prosthesis covered. She still has a ways to go; some expenses for the first surgery, meds, trips to GDL, rent and other misc. expenses have had to come out of Caro’s donations because she is unable to work and has no income. Her best friend, Zuzu, has been caring for Caro following her surgery in February.

For more information and updates, follow Caro’s facebook pages:

  • Help Caro to Walk (English)
  • Ayuda a Caro a Caminar (Español)

Thank you all!

UPDATE 7/12/2019: 

Carolina continues to heal from her first surgery, and has been undergoing the various mandatory evaluations that will provide a go-ahead for her first hip replacement in September or October. Although still jobless, donations have allowed Caro to return home (with rent, utilities and groceries covered). She is now caring for herself with the aid of a walker and minimal assistance.

Announcing — A fundraising event to Help Caro to Walk is being organized by local resident Bob Foster.  The fundraiser will be held 5-8 PM, Thursday, August 29th at the popular restaurant Adelita’s  in San Antonio Tlay.  The event will feature live music, dancing, dinner, a silent auction and more. Tickets can be purchased for $350 pesos before Aug. 23rd at It’s Kinda Bazar in Riberas del Pilar, Diane Pearl gallery in central Ajijic, and Adelita’s in San Antonio Tlay.  Tickets can also be purchased by through event organizer Bob Foster via email at bfoster100@hotmail.com, or PM message Bob Foster on Facebook.

 

 

 

For more information and updates, follow Caro’s facebook pages:

  • Help Caro to Walk (English)
  • Ayuda a Caro a Caminar (Español)

UPDATE 8/12/2019: 

More information and details about the fundraiser …

 

UPDATE 10/19/2019: 

Well the smoke has cleared and all accounting has been thoroughly checked and re-checked following the Aug. 29 Help Caro to Walk fundraising event organized by Bob Foster.  In adhering to full transparency, we are happy to report that around $88,000 pesos was directly or indirectly raised from the fundraiser. About $5,000 pesos has been withheld for future “Help Caro to Walk” campaign expenses, but the entire remaining amount has been transferred to Carolina’s bank account.

 

Going through the public healthcare system, the Hospital Civil and surgeon’s fees will largely be covered, but Carolina must pay out-of-pocket for the implant device of their choosing plus medications and other related medical expenses. This means that efforts to raise funds for Caro’s first hip implant apparently have been successful, based on the Hospital Civil’s  ballpark price of $45,000 minimum for one implant device, plus medications and miscellaneous expenses.

 

The first implant surgery at the Hospital Civil had been tentatively scheduled for this month. However, one of their required preliminary tests was flawed and unreadable, and has been re-scheduled. So, her Hospital Civil surgery was postponed. We will provide updates as we received them.

 

In the interim, Carolina met with Dr. Gustavo E. Ramirez Reyna, a highly qualified private orthopedic and trauma surgeon. Dr. Ramirez spent at least two hours with Caro, examining her X-rays, exploring the advantages and disadvantages of varying prosthetic devices, discussing the degree of post-surgical mobility and pain relief she could realistically expect, and (importantly) steps that would maximize the longevity and benefits of the implant device. It was Dr. Ramirez’ opinion that Caro may additionally require osteotomy surgery to correct her misaligned knee.  

 

None of this had yet been explained or discussed with Caro by Hospital Civil surgeons, so it was very valuable information.

 

At the private level, Dr. Ramirez estimated a cost of $180,000-$220,000 pesos for her first hip implant.  This would include the ceramic implant he recommends for best results. Apparently a ceramic implant device is more expensive initially, but it normally lasts longer than cheaper devices.

 

Although it is the opinion of many that best results would come with the ceramic hip device and surgery performed by a specialized private surgeon experienced in hip implants, Caro is willing to go the cheaper Hospital Civil route, if that remains the most feasible option, financially speaking.  Also, due to her steadily increasing pain, she is anxious to have the surgery as soon as possible.

 

It is important to note that – in addition to medical expenses — Caro is having to cover transportation and living expenses from donated funds until she can work. Obviously, she is trying to be as frugal as possible.

 

Sincere thanks are extended to all who attended or helped sponsor the fundraiser, and all who have donated and been following Caro’s situation.  Additional thanks go to event volunteers Dottie and Mark Erickson, Flip Nicolson, the musicians and others for their valuable assistance before and during the fundraising event.

 

Continued support for Caro through a donation (or through small monthly donations) is greatly appreciated.  Also 100% of donations and proceeds of saleable household items contributed to It’s Kinda Bazar and Kinda Not, in Riberas del Pilar will go to Carolina. 

 

Please watch this page for updates and additional details.