San Antonio.- The Fifth Annual Alzafar Shriners Charity Gala and Auction Saturday night was a moving event, The group gathered had the chance to meet young Dylan Garner Christian, a junior at Brandeis High School, and Grachi Hernandez, a student at Martin Elementary School. The young people had stories to tell how the miraculous impact the Shriners Hospitals had on their lives.
By Angela Covo
More than 12 years ago, Grachi Hernandez, then six months old, suffered life-threatening injuries in Honduras. She was caught in the middle of an explosion of a propane lantern in her home there – and doctors were certain she would not live to see her first birthday. The baby was burned so severely that that doctors thought the only chance she might have would be to amputate both arms – but even then, they were not sure she could be saved.
Devastated, her parents prayed and prayed, and someone in their little town advised them to seek the help of the Shriners Hospitals in America. The baby’s burns covered her head and entire upper torso. The Shriners sprung to action and brought the family to the United States so Grachi could be treated at their hospital in Galveston – completely free of charge.
And after multiple surgeries and cutting-edge approaches from the doctors at the Shriners Hospital in Galveston, Grachi survived the ordeal. They were able to save her left arm and most of her left hand, and her right arm to the elbow. And that’s not all. The Shriners continue to provide therapy and plastic surgery – and they hope by the time Grachi is 18 years old, most of the burn scars will be so minimized, that with a little make-up – they will be hardly noticeable at all.
Dr. Robert L. McCauley, Chief of Plastic Surgery at Shriner-Galveston, said his work is completely gratifying. After studying medicine at the University of Texas-Houston and M.D. Anderson, the doctor said “I feel I was just led there.” He has been working for children at Shriners Hospital for 25 years in aesthetic and functional surgery, and couldn’t imagine a different life.
“By taking care of the kids – I learn so much. It’s amazing how much they end up teaching me,” Dr. McCauley said.
The dedicated physician plans to continue Grachi’s therapy himself. He explained he plans to use dermabrasion to minimize her scars. Grachi will also undergo additional head and neck reconstructive surgery.
While scarred from her childhood accident, Grachi’s spirit is unscathed – and she is eternally grateful to McCauley and the Shriners who saved her life. The young lady is happy and wholesome, and cheerfully vivacious. She has a strong clear voice and loves to sing and dance – country is her favorite, and Taylor Swift is one of her heroes.
“I feel so happy for everything the hospital and the doctors have done for me – I am one of the luckiest people in the world,” Grachi said.
Dylan Garner Christian feels the same way. A victim of cerebral palsy, Dylan was wheel-chair bound and not making much progress. With the help of the Shriners, Dylan now walks, and soon hopes to be able to properly throw a basketball. The young man looks forward to college, but in the meantime, he is captain of the Junior Varsity bowling team at Brandeis High School, where he plays regularly. He also loves wrestling.
“The Shriners are amazing – my experience with them as been so great. They made such a huge difference in my life,” Dylan told La Prensa. His mother, Lisa Garner, agrees.
“The whole team is focused on Dylan. They treat us and Dylan with so much dignity and respect –and they make such a difficult experience so much fun for the kids. Dylan always looks forward to going back,” Garner said.
That too is a fantastic dimension of the kind of care kids get at Shriners Hospitals. In spite of how traumatic and difficult much of the care in these cases can be, the Shriners Hospitals somehow make it easier for the kids to undergo their surgeries and procedures – and comply with difficult regimens as they fight their way to overcome tremendous obstacles.
And while the evening was a great success – Recorder George Garza, Jr. said they are quickly approaching the night’s goal of $50,000 although the figures are not all in yet – this gala was a first in a very special way.
“It was such a moving and emotional evening for everyone. It was the first time we got a chance to meet the real heroes of our endeavors, the kids we so desperately wish to help,” Alzafar Potentate G.I Flores said.
If you know a child who needs help from a Shriners Hospital or if you too would like to help the Shriners help children in need of state-of-the-art medical attention, call (210) 496-1625 or visit the organization online at www.alzafar.org for more information.