Boy recovering from transplant gets holiday wish

Merced group gathers gifts for entire family

yamaro@mercedsunstar.comDecember 26, 2012 

— A 9-year-old Merced boy who recently underwent a bone marrow transplant got his Christmas wish list granted.

Sandy Azevedo with the Merced Runabouts adopted Nathaniel Mariano's family for the holidays. Nathaniel is at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital recovering from his transplant, which took place in early October.

Azevedo said the club is family-oriented and adopts or sponsors a family that is going through hardships. She put out a message using Facebook to get recommendations of families that could benefit from some help during the holidays.

She received several responses, but one in particular stood out. "I was really touched by Nathaniel so we went ahead and chose him," Azevedo said. "I have an 11-year-old son so it hits home with me."

Before getting the bone marrow transplant, Nathaniel suffered from severe aplastic anemia, a bone marrow disease that prevented his body from producing blood. Cyclosporine, the only medication to treat his disease, stopped working for him, and he suffered kidney failure.

His only cure was to find a bone marrow match. His donor was a 26-year-old male from the United States. Nathaniel has been in the hospital since late September.

Azevedo said that by adopting the family, she asked all children in the household for a wish list and tried to make that list become a reality for them. "I always try to get everything on the list," she said, adding that she approaches local businesses to help donate, too.

"It's all about the kids," she continued.

Azevedo said Nathaniel's wish list was "an awesome remote control truck, a remote control helicopter, video games and an MP3 player."

Nathaniel's four siblings also got their wish list granted, which included new jackets, hats, MP3 players, headphones, video games, and a gift card.

The family has expressed great appreciation for this act of kindness. Nathaniel's mother, Eva Cortinas, said she is very thankful. "I cannot thank the community for everything they've done," she said as her voice began to break. "We are very blessed."

Nathaniel initially wasn't responding to his transplant, Cortinas said, but his body is no longer rejecting it. However, she said, he is suffering from a couple of infections and is battling appendicitis. His doctors' goal is for him to recover from his transplant before they remove his appendix, but only if his appendicitis doesn't get worse, Cortinas said.

Nathaniel's birthday was this month, and his family had a surprise party for him in his hospital room. He's expected to be discharged from the hospital Dec. 27, but he and his family will have to stay at a family home in the hospital for a few weeks before they can return home in early to mid-January, Cortinas said.

Azevedo dropped off the toys at the Cortinas' family home last week, but won't get to meet Nathaniel until he comes back to Merced.

"I cannot wait to meet him," she said.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or yamaro@mercedsunstar.com.

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