Health crises take cheer out of family's holidays

Times Staff Writers

The De la Luz family will not be taking pictures next to a Christmas tree, opening presents or sitting down for a homemade turkey dinner today.

Instead, Maria de la Luz will be tending her youngest child, who suffers from a rare blood disease, then lugging him and three other children onto a bus to St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, where their father is battling leukemia.

"For us, it's hard to think of Christmas," said De la Luz, 29, her face lined with worry. "All I do is think. I wonder if my son and husband will wake in the morning. I wonder if my other children will be OK."

The family's situation makes it one of the neediest among those served by Share Our Selves, or SOS, a Costa Mesa nonprofit organization that provides for the less fortunate. "This family is going through a lot," said Yadira Gomez, a social worker who handles more than 25 cases. "It's one of my hardest cases. We're trying to find her help. They're surviving day by day."

De la Luz's husband, Ignacio, 36, is a construction worker who emigrated from Guerrero, Mexico, about eight years ago. The family followed three years later. De la Luz stays home with the children.

Their struggles began in July when Adolfo, their 2-year-old son, was diagnosed with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, a potentially fatal blood disorder affecting one child in every million.

He was hospitalized at Children's Hospital of Orange County in Orange, where he underwent intensive treatment and a blood transfusion. Recently the boy was released but must return every week for treatment.

Then, in October, Ignacio de la Luz was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which made him unable to work. He remains hospitalized at St. Joseph, where he is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Without his paycheck, the family exhausted its savings on rent and eventually became homeless. For several weeks the family spent days and nights in hospital waiting rooms until employees put Maria de la Luz in touch with SOS, which was able to help the family rent a room in a Fountain Valley house.

The organization is searching for help with medical bills, rent, food, clothing and child care.

De la Luz, meanwhile, is worried about Adolfo's bone marrow transplant scheduled for January.

"It's so stressful," she said. "I've never imagined this. For us, there will be no time for Christmas. I just hope that God gives us the strength to go on."


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