Howard and Janelle Freshman of Long Beach, Calif. first met Geral (aka Jerald and his mom in Buena Vista during their first medical mission to the Rio San Juan region in 2012. The pair were joined by orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Nicholas Halikis of Torrance Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Group.
Jerald was born with spina bifida.
Spina bifida is a birth defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth. Normally, during the first month of a pregnancy, the two sides of the spine (or backbone) join together to cover the spinal cord, spinal nerves and meninges (the tissues covering the spinal cord). Spina bifida refers to any birth defect involving incomplete closure of the spine. (Read more)
Just prior to their second medical trip in January 2013, Janelle learned that the application she submitted to Los Angeles Orthopaedic Hospital had been accepted. The hospital accepts a limited number of foreign patients into their surgery program each year.
Jerald and his mother, Maria, were flown to Los Angeles on May 26, 2013 and they remained there until Nov. 3. Their friends Armando and Margarita, along with their chldren Brian and Michelle, hosted them in their Torrance apartment for the first four months. They then lived with with Howard and Janelle in Long Beach for the rest of their stay. Through the generosity of family, friends, co-workers and strangers, some money was raised to cover the transportation and living expenses while they were in Southern California.
While in the States, Jerald was treated for his club feet at LA Orthopaedic Hospital under the care of Dr. Zionts who employed the Ponsetti Method. For about four months, he was fit with thigh-high casts on both legs, then underwent foot surgery on July 30. After some more time in casts, and the setback of a broken right tibia, Jerald was then fitted with braces and began physical therapy. By the time he left L.A., he was able to stand and walk with the benefit of an assistive device.
On July 20, he also underwent surgery for Ptosis (drooping eyelid), performed by Dr. Kenneth Wright at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The surgery was arranged and paid for by Mending Kids International as part of their Hometwon Missions program.
Jerald and his mom returned to Nicaragua on Nov. 3. They were set up with an apartment in San Carlos (about 3-4 hours by bus from their village of Buena Vista) so that Jerald had access to physical therapy and other medical treatment at the local hospital. He received therapy several days a week and also received tutoring in reading and writing.
While in Nicaragua, we were able to get an MRI of Jerald's spine and brain. Jerald also saw a urologist in Managua.
We visited the boy and his family in their village of Buena Vista in February and then brought them back to Los Angeles for further medical tests. The MRI rvealed no serious problems, clearing the way for further treatment of his spine. The specialist at Orthopaedic Hospital For Children recommended that nor surgery be done until Jerald is about 10 or 11, giving his body more time to grow.
While in the States, Jerald received a new mobility device and the boy is now able to walk for the first time in his life. Jerald and his mom returned to Nicaragua on April 1, 2014. Ongoing discussions are now taking place with urologists in L.A. and Managua and Jerald is developing his arm and length strength as he practices walking daily.
So, there is a lot more to be done and we'll need a significant amount of money for his ongoing medical care and travel expenses. Any help is appreciated. See more photos on our Facebook page.
Click here to donate to Jerald's Fund.
If you would like to learn more about this effort and see more pictures of Jerald click here.