It's both a heart-wrenching and heart-warming story. Sylvia Ramirez Lara, a 15 year-old Peruvian girl living with her family near Tsukuba began experiencing severe headaches a few months ago. Her father had been working in a local factory for about 5 years and was finally able to bring the entire family over to Japan last January. Her older brother and mother also began working in the factory while Sylvia and her younger brother began the task of learning Japanese while going to school.
It was not long before Sylvia was admitted to Tsukuba University Hospital where she was operated on to remove a brain tumor. Unfortunately, it was the most virulent type of malignant tumor and in a very difficult location. Thus, it was impossible to remove but a small portion of it. Doctors told her parents that she probably only had a few months to live.
When asked what her dream was, Sylvia said she wanted so much to go back to Peru to see her grandmother and her friends. But could she make such a long journey, and could her parents afford it? Many concerned people in the community began to rally to her support. A fund was established to help her wish come true, and then the Make-A-Wish Foundation got involved to do what it could to insure her wish was granted. Over 400,000 yen was raised in the community, mainly from people in the Tsukuba Catholic Church, where a Spanish-speaking priest, Father Fernando Abalos, was the mainstay in caring for the family's needs, and from those attending the Tsukuba Gakuen Church, with the rest coming from the International Worship Service emergency/scholarship fund.
The doctors at Tsukuba University Hospital did their utmost to prepare Sylvia to travel, and pushed hard to get through the red tape and lack of precedent that so often stifles initiative here in Japan. On top of that, they helped see to it that the large medical bills involved would basically be covered without burdening the family financially.
Finally, on Dec. 8th, Sylvia was checked out of the hospital and she and her family were taken to the airport in two cars, one driven by the father of Sylvia's junior high school teacher (who was also the family's main source of transportation to and from the hospital). It was a difficult decision for the family, but they decided that her father and older brother would remain here while only her mother and younger brother would accompany Sylvia back to Peru.
The airline had been advised of the situation, and they were very helpful in doing everything they could to help along the way. Make-A-Wish had purchased an extra seat so that Sylvia would be assured of being able to lie down, and after two plane changes and some 30 hours, they made it safely back to Lima. It had truly been a team effort, with many people contributing to the cause.
Sylvia had a very wonderful Christmas with her friends and family. She died on Dec. 30. Our prayers are with her family in their time of grief. The fact that Sylvia got her wish and ended her brief time on earth on a happy note, along with all of the support of so many in the community, will make that grief easier to bear.
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