On a typical night nearly three years ago, Kenny Argüello left his house to meet up with friends. A few hours later, the teenager spoke with his father via cellphone. Fifteen minutes after that call, the car he was traveling in flipped and landed in a canal in Sweetwater.
“One of the guys who was in the car with him told us that they had argued with a man in the parking lot of Dolphin Mall and when they realized that he was armed, they fled as fast as they could in their car,” said Kenny’s father Humberto Argüello, who still has doubts because his son didn’t mention anything about being followed when the two spoke minutes before the March 16, 2012, accident.
Kenny was the first in the group to be pulled from the canal by Sweetwater police.
“When we arrived at Kendall Hospital, the neurologist said that Kenny’s brain was not working and that if he survived, he’d be bed stricken,” said Argüello, who like his wife found strength deep within himself to listen to the same prognosis for their eldest son at Miami Children’s Hospital two months later.
Kenny suffered a cerebral paralysis as a result of the accident.
“At first I wanted to die but I told myself that my son couldn’t stay like that and that I wouldn’t rest until I could see him take care of himself and depend on others as little as possible,” said Kenny’s mother Cristina Argüello.
Kenny, now 20, has made some progress. He is able to flex his knees and press his feet down on the floor. He also is able to hear and respond to head movements. And his ability to recognize the faces of close relatives is improving.
“What has happened with Kenny has been a miracle,” said his mother. “He can read now, and when we add and subtract, he signals the correct answers with his eyes.”
Two months ago, Cristina Argüello contacted Spinal Cord Living-Assistance Development Inc., a resource center for people with physical disabilities in Hialeah, to ask for a special walker so that Kenny can begin an exercise program.
The cost of the walker is between $5,000 and $7,000. It would help Kenny stand up from his wheelchair for at least a little while every day as he works toward taking a few steps at a time.
“From the first meeting we had with the Argüellos, we tried to gather as much information as possible about his needs,” said Yenet Pelegrin, a social worker working on the case at Spinal Cord Living-Assistance Development. “When we knew how important it was for them to receive a special walker and modify the entrance walkway of their house, we took on the task of helping them. Wish Book means hope for this family.”
Kenny was born in Nicaragua and is a former student at Hialeah Senior High School. His tragedy has strengthened the family bond.
When specialists at the hospital suggested that Kenny be sent home, his parents did not know where to begin to help him get better. The first thing they did was obtain first-response training to deal with their son’s tracheotomy. Later, they pulled together all their resources to pay for necessary adjustments to the home to accommodate Kenny’s needs.
However, they couldn’t afford to make all the necessary repairs beyond widening doors for a wheelchair and making modifications to the bathroom. When it rains, the property floods so Kenny’s father must carry his son in and out of the home.
The family survives on a single income from Cristina’s job at a car dealership. After the accident, her husband quit working at a warehouse and restaurant to dedicate himself to taking care of Kenny and the couple’s three younger children: Christian, 12; Kevin, 10; and 7-month-old Chaylie.
“Kenny weighs more than 160 pounds. He needs to have everything done for him and his mother can’t take care of him by herself,” Humberto Argüello said. “That’s why we decided that I should stay home.”
Cristina’s salary is barely enough to support her family and cover her household’s expenses. She can’t afford the cost of the walker.
Kenny is currently receiving physical and speech therapy at Palmetto Hospital. Fortunately, his progress has injected a renewed dose of optimism into the Argüello family.
“We’ve never treated him as a sick person. We keep him aware of everything that’s going on and to distract him, we play action films for him,” Cristina Argüello said. “When we take him to Mass, we tell him to pray to God for his health because he’s the only one who can save him.”
How to help
Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year.
▪ To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook
▪ To give via your mobile phone, text WISH to 41444
▪ For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook@MiamiHerald.com
▪ Most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans
Read more at Miami Herald.com/wishbook