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
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.
“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
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.
“She’s a very strong little girl and she’s accepted it all,” Cabrera
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
SCHOOL: Miller Kindergarten School.
FAVORITE CARTOON: “Blues Clues.”
FAVORITE CHARACTER: Barney the purple dinosaur
FAMILY: Mother, Emily Cabrera, and sister, Samantha, 4.