LEXINGTON, Neb. – It started as just another day.
The members of the Arredondo family (Bernardo and Cindy, older daughter Adamaris, and baby Ailyn) were juggling school, childcare and jobs. Bernardo works in the slaughter department at Tyson Fresh Meats and Cindy worked at Great Western Bank.
Bernardo, an immigrant from Michoacán, Mexico and Cindy, born in California and raised in Lexington, embody the can-do working class of Lexington. Their story could be used to describe many households in the community.
Their idyllic small town lives changed forever on Aug. 31, 2015 when Cindy’s sister, Alejandra Zamora, took Ailyn out for a walk in a stroller. The pair were struck by a motorist and immediately transported to Lexington Regional Health Center with life threatening injuries.
Cindy recalled that day at the hospital. “I was with my girl, and then next thing I know, I went outside and the doctor said my sister died,” she said.
Excessive head trauma caused swelling in Ailyn’s brain and prompted her transfer to CHI Good Samaritan in Kearney. Eventually she was transported to Omaha for further intensive care treatment. She had to be sedated and hooked to a respirator for much of her treatment, Bernardo said.
“Six months ago was very difficult. I didn’t know what would happen,” Cindy said.
Bernardo said it was hard to describe the rush of emotions he felt the day the accident occurred.
“I can’t find words to say how I felt. In that time you need God. One seeks God, say your Hail Marys, you pray. It’s a form of seeking help for you to go forward,” Bernardo said.
All of a sudden, he found himself in Omaha for a three-week period, Bernardo said.
Doctors made a hole in Ailyn’s head to allow the pressure in her brain to drop and release fluid from the aperture. Bernardo said a doctor in Omaha told him Ailyn could die, or if she lived she wouldn’t be normal like before.
Ailyn spent 16 days at Omaha Children’s Hospital in the intensive care unit. She was released Sept. 17. Ailyn spent about a month in rehabilitation at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln. She was released from Madonna on Nov. 5.
“Really, God did a miracle by keeping her alive,” Bernardo said.
Despite living a nightmare, the Arredondos were never abandoned by the Lexington community. “My sisters, Cindy’s family, people at Tyson, school friends, Pizza Hut and Great Western bank collected money for us. It was very beautiful what they did,” Bernardo said.Lexington club El Tropico even hosted a fundraiser dance for Ailyn, he added.
The family is grateful for the financial and moral support, calls and prayers, Bernardo said.
The family has a long road ahead. Cindy said she wanted Ailyn, now eight-months-old, to grow and be as normal as possible.
With the head injury affecting Ailyn’s brain development, Bernardo said his daughter’s brain needed to start over. “We don’t know if in five years she will be able to walk or talk,” he said.
Ailyn’s readjustment to home still requires visits to Family Physical Therapy inLexington twice a week, where she gets help using her muscles. Rehab has also helped
Ailyn learn to use her bib, or teta, as it’s known in Spanish.
Currently, she is not able to hold her head up straight with her neck or crawl or talk. Ailyn can’t use her hands or arms on her own either.
Bernardo said it was best for Cindy to stay home and take care of Ailyn, who needs constant care, leaving him as the sole income-earner for the family.
Having been close to losing their youngest daughter, the Arredondos view each day as a blessing filled with little goals that Ailyn is bound to meet. Cindy said she attends a support group for mothers who have children that have suffered similar injuries that Ailyn has, she said.
In the wake of the accident, Ailyn didn’t smile or seem to recognize him or Cindy, but time and rehabilitation has allowed her to grow. Now she recognizes when one of her parents talks to her, Bernardo said.
Figuring out if Ailyn needed her milk or food or to be carried was easy. “She cries when she needs something,” he said.
Bernardo mentioned a memorable conversation he had recently at St. Ann’s Catholic Church.
“A lady at church talked to us about how she dedicates her time to helping the needy, like those who suffer after car accidents. She told us that kids can improve, she has seen it. Never lose faith, miracles are for God to do,” Bernardo said.
Just like a parent’s love knows no limits, the Arredondos’ philosophy for Ailyn is a very loving and Hispanic one. Hispanic culture, especially families with recent immigrants, always know how to “siguir adelante” or move forward.
“We have goals for her. The biggest thing is to heal her brain, have it grow and develop. Since she came back from Madonna she looks at us, she recognizes us. At therapy she can do little things. The little things are big accomplishments for her,” Cindy said.
The Arredondo Family will be a beneficiary of the Eighth Annual Red and Wild Ladies on the Town event on Thursday, April 21 from 5-8 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express in Lexington. Tickets are &7 in advance and $8 at the door. The event is organized by the Lexington Clipper-Herald.