With Gloria Estefan’s financial help, 8-year-old Nicholas Katrib of Hialeah will receive medical treatment that will help him walk normally.
The singing star says she will cover all medical expenses for Nicholas, who suffers from cerebral palsy.
About three weeks ago, el Nuevo Herald ran a story about Nicholas and his mother, Yordanka Fernández, 38, a Hialeah resident of Cuban descent, who was desperately seeking help for her son.
“I had a lot of faith in this publication, but I didn’t imagine that after this something so miraculous would happen,” Fernández said.
Nicholas was born three months premature, when his organs had not fully formed. The growth of his liver, lungs, and stomach was stimulated with steroids, as well as his skin and corneas. He was 11 inches long and weighed just one pound.
After multiple visits to specialists, the baby was diagnosed with infantile cerebral palsy, a condition affecting the areas of the brain in charge of movement, and which causes extreme muscular rigidity. He was also diagnosed with a light level of autism.
Fernandez and her husband, Kiryl Katrib, were not satisfied with their child’s prognosis, which indicated that they should “accept that your child could be a vegetable all his life.” With their limited incomes, cleaning houses and installing fire detectors, they’ve made many efforts to procure alternative therapies for Nicholas.
“The progress that he’s made is miraculous and that’s greatly because of the tenacity of his family and especially the devotion of his mother, who has left everything behind to dedicate her life completely to Nicholas,” said pediatrician Maria Pol-Carballo, who has provided medical care to Nicholas since he was only months old. “But there’s still a long journey ahead and the next and most important step is for Nicholas to walk.”
This can be achieved thanks to an intensive treatment with a robotic device named Lokomat. The therapies are offered uniquely within the United States at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago in Illinois.
But the treatment costs between $30,000 and $56,000 — which is not covered by Medicaid because the treatment would take place outside Florida.
Gloria Estefan to the Rescue
Working tirelessly to see her son walk, Fernandez started the Nicholas Katrib Foundation on the crowd-sourcing website www.gofundme.com. She hoped to raise enough money so that he could receive therapy this summer.
“After the publication of the story, donations started pouring in and people would write beautiful comments and all that helped me not lose hope,” Fernández said. “I don’t know how to thank each person for so much support.”
However, when the goal of $36,000, which would pay for five weeks of therapy, was not met, Fernández became frustrated. The start date of the therapy was nearing and only half the money was collected.
“I was vomiting because of stress. I spoke to several foundations, I printed shirts, I put up flyers everywhere I could, but I didn’t see as much progress as I needed to,” she said. “However, when I was about to give up I got a call that changed my life and my son’s life forever.”
Last Thursday at about noon, a woman called Fernández to tell her that someone was going to pay for Nicholas’ full treatment. At the time, the woman on the phone did not reveal the donor’s identity.
“I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was a prank,” Fernández said. “I said, please don’t play with that.”
Less than an hour later, Fernández received another call — from Gloria Estefan.
“Don’t worry my love, I’m going to take care of everything. Your son is going to walk,” Estefan told Fernández.
“Ma’am, when I see you, I’m going to kiss your feet,” Fernández told the singer.
“My dear, that’s not necessary, I just want you to give me a hug,” replied Estefan.
A Touched Reader
Estefan found out about Fernández and Nicholas after an el Nuevo Herald reader tweeted a link to the story on social media, also mentioning the singer.
“It was a series of several miracles,” Fernández said “From the person who donated $5, to the one that sent me a kind message, for me all of them are angels because they made small miracles and sent me better energy so that this, that’s so wonderful, could happen to me and my son,” she said. “To Gloria and to all the people who have helped me, I’m eternally grateful.”
Nicholas’ treatment, costing a total of $56,670, was immediately paid in full, providing the best available treatment for Nicholas.
Fernández plans to donate the rest of the money she raised to foundations that help other children with medical problems.
“I already received my miracle and I want to form part of that chain of help,” she said. “I can attest to the fact that you can’t ever lose hope.”
Follow Estephani Cano on Twitter: @EstephaniCano