The student news source of Iowa City West High

Never give up

May 20, 2022

For the first two years of her life, Pammie was often in and out of the hospital. She would go for months at a time and only come home for a couple of weeks. Patricia spent days in the hospital, supporting Pammie. During this time, she faced linguistic barriers while communicating in the hospital.

“The most difficult [time] was when she was born because she needed so many surgeries. At the beginning, it was so hard because she wasn’t talking [or] walking because her hip was dislocated. There were not a lot of translators or interpreters at the hospital; the language was the hardest part because I wanted to understand everything so I could help,” Patricia said.

Many of Pammie’s challenges stem from difficult recoveries, especially due to negative reactions to anesthetics where she would get extremely sick and have to spend weeks at the hospital.

“Through all of those heart surgeries, we were sad, but at the same time, we just wanted her to have the best life possible,” Patricia said. “I just promised to God, ‘If you let Pammie stay with us, I will devote my life to her.’”

During Pammie’s second heart surgery, the doctors told Patricia that Pammie was dying due to bleeding they couldn’t stop. All Patricia wanted was for Pammie to see the beauty of the world, so she prayed to God for her survival. Later, doctors informed her that Pammie had finally stopped bleeding and she would be okay. Patricia believes that was the day she discovered faith.

“After seeing how much she has to fight, I have to fight for her … she finds the way to be positive — her courage, her strong spirit — I think it has helped us all. Everybody who has been around Pammie [has] said [she] is their inspiration,” Patricia said.

Pammie works on math homework with paraeducator Chris Marks. (Sachiko Goto)

Pammie often worries about missing schoolwork and feels the need to complete it all at once. Her teachers regularly email her, letting her know they want her to focus on her health, but it is still hard for Pammie to do.

“[I admire] how much she loves school. She has a lot of struggles with her health and sometimes tends to miss classes, but it doesn’t deter her from working hard and making up whatever she misses. She just wants to succeed and keep moving forward,” Garcia said.

Pammie has an IEP — Individualized Education Program — that entails reduced work. However, being in and out of the hospital still makes it hard to keep up. Pammie regularly goes to her grandma’s house to complete work. She tries her hardest, but sometimes there isn’t enough time to do everything, and it can be difficult for Pammie to speak up about the workload.

“I would say that the teachers would always be glad to help me. I just have a hard time saying, ‘this is too much work,’” Pammie said.

Garcia’s main focus is Pammie’s health, always using her mantra, “health comes first.” Whenever Garcia senses Pammie’s stress, she makes sure to ask if she’s feeling okay, her way of telling Pammie she can take a break.

“She also gets worried and stressed when it takes her longer to catch up on her work. She doesn’t always like to voice it, so I don’t always catch it,” Garcia said. “But her teachers are so flexible and so accommodating, so that’s been wonderful.”

Through her experiences, Pammie has learned that doing all of her work at once isn’t always beneficial. She now knows that she can take time for herself and that make-up work is okay.

“If I’m having a struggle or something I don’t want to do, [I remember] if Pammie can do it, I can do it,” Garcia said.

Inspired by her own life, Pammie wrote an essay titled “Never Give Up”, detailing her experiences in and out of the hospital. She hopes to keep working hard in her future and inspiring others.

“She said that even with [her struggles], she loves to go to school, wants to go to college one day and she wants to be a child life specialist and never give up. That’s what she wants to express to the world,” Patricia said.

Patricia and Pammie have learned from each other through their tough times in and out of the hospital. The positive outlook on life that Pammie carries has also meant a great deal to her mother.

“I feel like the best of this has been Pammie’s attitude — that she’s always been so positive when I was crying and falling apart. She was smiling with tubes in her mouth; she was always happy. You would see her struggling with her walker, but she was still happy. She was still smiling,” Patricia said. “I feel like everything has been easier because of her strength and love for life. She just loves life.”

Patricia explains how their family is grateful for all of the help they’ve received along the way.

“The whole community, the school, the hospital, the health workers were the key. We are so blessed that she had so much support from the school,” Patricia said.

Family, friends, school and hospital staff have all helped Pammie come thus far, but ultimately, her accomplishments come from her own resilience. Patricia feels Pammie is the reason her family got through their tough times.

“She thinks she got her strength from me, but I think we got it from her,” Patricia said.

She thinks she got her strength from me, but I think we got it from her.”

— Patricia Rodríguez

Pammie believes that people with disabilities should be referred to as those that need a little extra help or support. With specific accommodations, they can do anything they put their mind to.

“I think people should not believe that [people with disabilities] are not worth it and that they’re not going to do anything, like impact anything in life, because they have a disability,” Pammie said.

Through it all, Pammie now knows her own limits but continues to hope for a fulfilling future.

“At first, I thought [my disability] was something working against me, because I didn’t really understand all I had,” Pammie said. “But then, as I grow older, I become more worried that I can’t necessarily do everything, but I also become more happy with myself [and] all I can accomplish.”

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