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By Jacqueline Baylon
Sitting beside his father, 4-year-old Hector Manuel Robles flipped through his coloring book Wednesday at Shriners Hospitals for Children Northern California.
He has spent roughly seven of the past 12 months undergoing surgery and therapy at the Sacramento hospital, after surviving a catastrophic day care fire that killed 49 people last June in Hermosillo, Mexico.
One of 10 victims flown to Shriners for treatment, Hector arrived in Sacramento with burns over 51 percent of his body. Although he is better, a lifetime of healing awaits him – care that the Shriners will ensure by spending millions of dollars.
Hector has returned to Shriners with his parents to see the orthopedic team and to get therapy and possibly surgery for a broken and burned hand.
"We are the ones who worry, but the hospital takes care of the children," said Hector's mother, Adriana Guadalupe Villegas Yanez.
She describes the hospital as her first home because she spent so much more time there than in Hermosillo. But Hector has been able to go back home, and when he is there, he's treated at an outreach clinic that Shriners staffs in Mexico.
When in Hermosillo, Villegas said, Hector loves playing with his two older sisters and cousins. Occasionally, he has even managed a few minutes of soccer.
Dr. David Greenhalgh, chief of burns at the hospital, was one of the first to treat Hector and expects to continue seeing him for years.
Starting July 1, Greenhalgh will also be helping to train two Mexican physicians to be burn specialists as part of a fellowship program recently launched by the Mexican government. Seeds for the fellowship were planted in July 2009 when Mexico's first lady, Margarita Zavala, visited the Hermosillo burn victims at Shriners.
Back then, Hector was receiving skin grafts, and those grafts must be watched closely as he grows up. Greenhalgh explained that the grafted skin does not always stretch as children grow, so they may need to go through more grafts.
"We have to keep treating these kids because the damage their bodies have undergone needs reconstructive surgeries along with many intensive therapies," said Greenhalgh.
And lucky for Hector, some of the therapy is child's play. He uses a Nintendo Wii every day. It is more than just a game, though. It is recommended by his therapist.
"A lot of therapy is very tedious and part of it is just really hard work, so we try to incorporate appealing toys and games like the Wii that will actually motivate them," said Cheryl Hanley, manager of physical and occupational therapy.
Hector and his mother can both attest that most therapy is hard work. Throughout the day, Villegas said, she must help her son stretch his muscles. Periodic rest ensures that Hector's skin will not break open and that his pain will be kept in check, she explained.
The Wii offers a welcome respite for both. "He loves playing the bowling one, along with baseball and one that involves swords," she said.
Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/06/10/2811848/shriners-vow-of-care-keeps-hope.html#ixzz0qTFu0A8Q