February 2023


with Madeline. They travel to Dallas Children’s Hospital at least once a month. Maria and Fernando strive to make Madeline’s journey a family process. They include Jazlyn (10), Melanie (9), and Leonardo (5) in discussions about Madeline’s treatments. They meet as a family before each trip to Dallas to discuss what will happen. “We talk to the kids and explain the procedures each time we go for any length of time. It is truly a family process,” Maria said. Maria and Fernando often travel together for day trips to Dallas. Maria also stays with Madeline when they have to spend more extended periods at the hospital. During those times, Fernando travels back and forth to help make life at home for the other three children more normal. For Madeline, these trips are made easier with her stuffed animals and the little toys she takes to help her stay calm. The Piñas also are blessed to have the support of family members and close friends to help ease the burden and stress of the time they have to spend away from Madeline’s siblings. “When it comes to situations like this, our family members always take care of Madeline’s siblings and make sure we are doing okay while we’re away. They are always in touch, just like our friends and St. Edward’s Church members praying for us,” said Maria. Madeline attends Nash Elementary School through Texarkana ISD’s homebound education program. She is in first grade through this program. Because of her health concerns, she cannot attend classes and interact with her peers daily. Madeline is also active in Sunday School at St. Edward’s Catholic Church. Madeline’s church group is small, so this allows her to interact with other children her own age. Some of her church friends, cousins, and siblings call her “Itzy.” They also like to inquire about her health, especially the G (Gastronomy) tube feeding her.

The Piña family: (L-R, back) Melanie, Maria, Fernando, Jazlyn, (front) Leonardo, and Madeline.

“Madeline’s friends ask me what the “button” is near her stomach,” said Maria. “I explain that is where she gets her food.” The Piña family encourages those around them to take care of their health. “People don’t always exhibit outward signs of a disability, so it is essential that when we are out in public that we take into consideration the health needs of others,” Maria said. She added, “Some look totally normal, like Madeline, but still are very fragile.” According to UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing), one organ donor can save up to eight lives. As of January 4, 2023, 115,277 candidates are waiting for donated organs. The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) is a secure database of all the national data on the candidate waiting list, organ donation, matching, and transplantation. Along with UNOS, this database is critical in helping doctors match patients with organs. Becoming a registered organ donor is easy. It takes less than a minute to register to save someone’s life. To register in Texas, as in most states, a person can sign up when receiving or renewing a driver’s license. Texans can also register at

www.donatelifetexas.org . The process is the same in Arkansas. Arkansans can register at www.donatelifearkansas.org . Online registration puts a person’s donor information in the state and national organ donation databases. These databases are vital because another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list every nine minutes. It is also crucial that parents make this hard decision when thinking about their minor children. Parents or legal guardians control organ donations for children under 18 in most states, including Texas and Arkansas. Losing a child is devastating, but giving the gift of organ donation can save more than one child’s life. If you are not a registered donor, consider signing up the next time you sit at your computer or renew your driver’s license. You could be the person who helps one or more of those candidates on the donor list. Also, if you have not thought about the choice you would make if you had to decide to donate your child’s organs— have that discussion with your family. That discussion and decision might save a life like Madeline Piña’s someday.




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