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Holiday house call

Leslie Simmons

MEDIA DISTRICT NORTH -- A broad grin spreads across Christina Garcia’s

face when she’s asked about her recent visit from the Burbank police and

fire departments.

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The bright-eyed 6-year-old, who has been recovering from a brain tumor

since 1995, celebrated Christmas a week early when members of the two

departments delivered toys to her Saturday at the Peyton Avenue apartment

she shares with her mother, Emily Cabrera, and sister, Samantha.

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“Her eyes lit up when she sat in the front seat of the fire engine,”

Cabrera said. “When they left, I couldn’t believe it... She was so happy

it made me cry,”

When she was 2, Christina began complaining of an earache. Soon she

stopped eating and then laughing, crying and walking and talking as well.

Doctors diagnosed the toddler with a cancerous brain tumor.

At Childrens Hospital, doctors were able to remove 90% of the tumor

during surgery, Cabrera said, but the damage it caused to Christina

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remained.

Though she goes to physical therapy twice a week and can walk short

distances with a walker, Christina’s primary mode of transportation is

her purple wheelchair. She also needs a ventilator to breathe and is fed

with a tube as a result of paralysis to her right diaphragm. Christina

also must undergo daily chemotherapy treatments.

Despite these difficulties, Christina isn’t one to complain about her

condition, her mom said.

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“She’s a very strong little girl and she’s accepted it all,” Cabrera

said.

Mike Harmon, a neighbor of the family, orchestrated the visit by the

police and fire departments. He said he was motivated to do something for

the little girl whose smile and spirit always touch him.

“When I see Christina, she always has a smile on her face,” Harmon

said. “I thought, ‘Why not decorate the place and get the police and fire

departments out here?’ ”

On Thursday, Harmon spoke with Sgt. David Gabriel and the wheels began

turning. By Saturday morning, enough money had been collected at the two

departments to buy Christina six presents.

“It really touched our hearts and we decided to help out however we

could,” said Fire Capt. Frank Walbert. “She was all smiles, ear-to-ear...

She was thrilled and we were thrilled for her.”

The police officers and firefighters greeted Garcia with presents

including a Pokemon Monopoly game, a big, white stuffed dog and a

dress-up doll. But her favorite presents were a key chain with an

honorary Burbank Police Department badge attached and a plastic red fire

helmet, which reads “Fire Chief.”

“She used to think police officers were bad guys and I’d tell her they

weren’t; they’re here to help us,” Cabrera said. “When they left, she

said ‘I like them now.’ ”

Cabrera, who cares for her daughter along with a private nurse, said

it’s difficult to take her daughter even to the movies or the mall

because her wheelchair -- which includes a ventilator, oxygen tank,

medical supplies and a car-size battery -- is difficult to take apart and

put back together. A wheelchair-accessible van would help, but for now

that is beyond the family’s means.

Still, Cabrera says she works hard to compensate for her daughter’s

lack of travel.

“I try to bring everything to her,” she said.

THE CHRISTINA GARCIA FILE

AGE: 6.

SCHOOL: Miller Kindergarten School.

FAVORITE CARTOON: “Blues Clues.”

FAVORITE CHARACTER: Barney the purple dinosaur

FAMILY: Mother, Emily Cabrera, and sister, Samantha, 4.


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