Doctors told Mateo’s family he would not survive, but he proved them wrong
Mateo is a blessing,” says his mother Karinna. Doctors had predicted that Mateo had no future. But in Wayfinder’s Early Intervention Program, the little boy’s progress has inspired his close-knit family.
On one fateful day when she was seven months pregnant, Karinna brought her children, Jenifer, then age 13, and Alfredo Jr., age 11, to a routine ultrasound check- up. “They were so excited to see their little brother,” she remembers. The family had already decided to call him Mateo.
Karrina knew something was wrong when the technician did not say a word during the ultrasound. A doctor entered. He did not speak Spanish or request a translator, so Jenifer and Alfredo Jr. translated for their mom. With no sensitivity, the doctor said, “The baby’s brain is not developing. He will most likely die in utero. If he is born, he will not survive for more than a year. It would be better to terminate the pregnancy and try again.”
Ignoring the family’s emotions, the doctor went on. He said the situation was hopeless. If he lived, the baby would be a vegetable. Jenifer and Alfredo Jr. struggled to hold back their tears as they translated. After the appointment, they cried in the restrooms.
When Alfredo Sr. came home from work that night, he found his wife sobbing so hard that he could not understand her. Jenifer told her dad, “Mateo is not doing good. But we made a decision to keep him. We love him, even if he is coming with problems.” Alfredo Sr. agreed, “We will all fight for Mateo.”
Mateo was born with a rare genetic disorder that causes intellectual and developmental delays, plus an eye disorder. He had two surgeries before he was three months old. A doctor told Karinna and Alfredo Sr., “Mateo is a warrior.”
At seven months old, Mateo began receiving weekly services from a Wayfinder early intervention specialist. “I was hoping that Mateo would be able to see us,” Karinna remembers, “that he could one day respond to us.”
Working with his Wayfinder specialist through video visits during the pandemic, Mateo learned how to track objects with his eyes. The specialist instructed Karinna to place toys slightly away from him so he would reach for them.
Now nearly three years old, Mateo can roll over and scoot to get his toys. Before he started early intervention, he touched his family member’s faces to see them. Now when asked, where is your dad or brother or sister, Mateo turns and looks at them. “This is the most incredible thing!” Karinna says, “He can see us.”
Karinna hopes that one day Mateo will be able to walk and communicate. “I dream of walking to the store and having Mateo beg
me to get him some chips and juice,” she says, “and us talking about picking something healthier as a snack.” Mateo is not the only warrior in his family. Jenifer, now 16, and Alfredo Jr., 14, are devoted to their little brother. Jenifer’s experience of translating for the insensitive doctor has inspired her to become a neonatal intensive care nurse. She wants other families in difficult situations to be treated with respect and care by medical professionals.
During his mother’s doctor appointments, Alfredo Jr. was fascinated by ultrasounds. He became so good at interpreting the scans that a technician recommended Alfredo Jr. pursue this as a career.
Karinna is very grateful that Wayfinder gives her family respect and support. “I am so happy that Wayfinder has people who speak my language and understand me, my family, our culture, and how to help us,”•she says. “Thank you for helping us help Mateo.”
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June 7, 2022