Theresa Ybanez Family

When three-year-old Theresa came down with what her parents, Kayla and Nick, thought was an ear infection, they weren’t too worried. But after a few days of no improvement, they took Theresa to their family doctor, where it turned out the situation was much more serious – and immediate.

Theresa had appendicitis and was rushed into emergency surgery, where doctors discovered her appendix had burst and her body was struggling to fight the infection due to a weakened immune system.

During the first several critical weeks of her care, Theresa’s parents stayed as close as possible as she underwent multiple life-saving surgeries, fought infections, and tried to heal.

“From the day we got to the hospital, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana (RMHC-CNI) was there for us to make sure that we had a place to sleep, shower, have meals, and support,” said Kayla. “They’ve been there with us since the beginning of this journey so we can focus on taking care of our sick child as a priority.”

“It’s great to have that kind of community surround us during the past 14 months, 24 hours a day, while Theresa has been in the hospital,” adds Nick. “That just helps the healing, too, that you know everyone is rooting for you.”

In January 2019, after more than a year of complex hospital care, Theresa received an extremely special gift from her brother, Kruz – a bone marrow transplant to help rebuild her struggling immune system.

Before her hospitalization, “Theresa loved playing with her brother, and was always very high energy, especially when the two of them were together,” Nick recalled. “It’s quite special that Kruz was a match with her for the bone marrow transplant and was able to provide that life-saving treatment for her and get her through this very tough time,” added Dr. Tara Suntum, Pediatric Oncology Fellow at UChicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital.

Theresa was finally given the green light to return home in April, a full 14 months after first being admitted to the hospital.

“Theresa has taught us that every day you have a choice to decide how your day is going to go, if it’s going to be a good day or not a good day,” Kayla shared. “Even on her hardest days she still found a reason to smile – I think that’s a good lesson we can all take from her.”