CORPUS CHRISTI — 2023 marked the 31st year of the largest fundraiser for Driscoll Children's Hospital and in that time they’ve collected more that $15 million in donations.
The donations go toward helping patients from South Texas and beyond, like Layla Vitales.
“She’s like the little princess on the floor and I’m known as the grandma,” Yvet Arce said.
Layla, Arce's grand-daughter, is a princess whose smile could melt anyone’s heart.
“She’s a down syndrome little girl,” Arce said. “She’s learning how to talk little by little, learning sign language, too.”
But on June 27, 2022 her second birthday, she got sick.
“She was with fevers and everything,” Arce said. “We went to different clinics and hospitals in Laredo. No one could give me a diagnosis.”
Arce said Layla went through more blood work.
“They told me she had a 99 percent chance of having leukemia,” Arce said.
Layla and her mom were flown straight from their hometown Laredo, to Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi.
Arce followed behind them.
“That day she had her surgery for her Medi port,” Arce said. “They did the lumber spine, the bone marrow, you name it.”
The news of her diagnosis devastated her family.
“She’s born with down syndrome so that’s one major thing we have to take care of and then boom, Leukemia,” Arce said. “Like, why? Why her? How?”
“So my daughter, (Layla’s) mother, she’s a single mom, could stay home in Laredo to take care of her ten month old baby (and) finish college,” Arce said.
“We’re most of the time meeting them on the worst day of their life,” Laura Esparza, a medical social worker at DCH said. “The families arrive sometimes with no place to stay, no clothing, no food.”
Esparza helped Arce with lodging and food while Driscoll’s doctors and nurses helped Layla.
“Places to call for donations, the leukemia center, the cancer society, all of that,” Arce said. “Thanks to them I also got warm clothes cause, like I said, we didn’t bring anything."
She said the kind of care Driscoll provides wasn’t available in Laredo.
“It takes away a burden of, 'how are you going to pay for this?'” Arce said “How are you going to do this? How are you going to do that.”
“They were telling me that she’s one in a million that didn’t get one side effect,” Arce said.
She crossed several milestones that her family worried she’d never get to.
“Dec. 11 to be exact, they gave her, her own walker,” Arce said. “She started walking that day.”
Layla spent seven months in the hospital.
“Her last treatment was on Tuesday so she’s done with treatment,” Arce said.
Soon, she’ll go home and the doctors, nurses, social workers and staff that became her second family, will cheer her on.
“They’ve been so helpful,” Arce said. “They go above and beyond and they’re always there.”
Esparza said they don’t turn children away and DCH provides full care from the moment they arrive.
That’s why fundraisers like Fiesta De Los Ninos are important to keeping the hospital running.
100 percent of the net proceeds directly benefit the hospital.