BROOKLINE — Amaia Isabel Garcia Andino lay tranquilly in the arms of her father, occasionally reaching her tiny arms up to tug at the white headband with its giant flower holding her dark curly hair in place. A white sweater covered a scar where a feeding tube nourished her.
The quiet scene offered no clue about the difficult road Amaia’s parents had taken to get their only child from Puerto Rico on Friday to this Brookline living room.
The baby’s parents, Alianette Andino, 22, and Kelvin Garcia, 32, are preparing for medical treatment at Boston Children’s Hospital for Amaia, who has a serious heart condition called left ventricular dysplasia. Born six-and-a-half months into Andino’s pregnancy, Amaia had open heart surgery at the age of 2 months and spent the first eight months of her life in a hospital. She left the hospital in March but had to return for continuous follow-up visits. The only nourishment the 14-month-old can take is milk, water, and vitamins through the tube, for fear she might choke. WBUR originally reported this story on Thursday morning.
When Hurricane Maria made landfall on Sept. 20, the family’s problems grew.
Andino and Garcia lost power in their home in Maunabo, a small city on the southeast coast of Puerto Rico, and their water supply became contaminated. They could not go out and buy Amaia vitamins because all of the pharmacies were closed.
Amaia’s condition deteriorated in the worsening conditions.
“She was dehydrated, her sodium was high, her potassium levels were high . . . her oxygen levels were low, Garcia said. “The conditions were at odds with us.”
Amaia’s temperature rose to 103 for several days and her parents grew more and more concerned. Local clinics had closed and Andino and Garcia live an hour away from the hospitals in San Juan.
The family drove to the pediatric hospital in San Juan, where Amaia was treated in the emergency room.
“She was vomiting and had pulled out her feeding tube a little, and wasn’t able to get much nourishment,” said Andino “She was so skinny.”
Doctors gave her oxygen and stabilized her over five days.
The next concern was Amaia’s longer-term care.
With potential open-heart surgeries ahead within the next year, having a reliable hospital was a must. The hospital in San Juan was overcrowded and running on a generator.
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