Before she could even walk, Elizabeth loved to swing the kitchen mop around to “help” her mamá, Nidia, with the cleaning. Nidia was always very careful to put the mop away when she left the room. One day when Elizabeth was 11 months old, a teenage girl who was staying with the family pulled out the mop. At the same time, she began frying plantains on the stovetop and then left the room. Young Elizabeth grabbed the mop and knocked the hot pan right onto herself, sustaining horrible burns. Her mother was in the other room talking with her husband Agapito when she heard her daughter scream in pain. Nidia said she still hears the agony of her daughter’s cry deep in her heart.
Nidia and Agapito rushed Elizabeth to the clinic near their home in Puerta Plata, Dominican Republic. The doctors there helped her as much as their expertise allowed, but it was clear that Elizabeth needed more care for her injuries. When the family heard that doctors from Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston were in the DR to hold a clinic for burn patients, Elizabeth’s father traveled a great distance to show pictures of his daughter’s injuries to the team. Thus began an 18-year journey for Elizabeth as a Boston Shriners Hospital patient.
Elizabeth has been coming to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston since she was five years old and has traveled to the hospital eight times for surgeries and laser treatments. On every visit, she has been accompanied by her mother, who is a pastor in the Dominican Republic at the Iglesia Cristiana Fuente de Salvacion. The family made a connection with a church in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and Nidia and Elizabeth have always been able to stay locally with friends they have met through the church. It was through the church that they met Cynthia. From the time Elizabeth was six years old, Cynthia was given the job of helping to look after her. The two have a special bond and Elizabeth calls Cynthia “the sister of my heart.”
Now 23, Elizabeth has “graduated” from the Shriners Hospitals for Children health care system, and is going home for good. She is ready to take on the next challenge in her life – culinary school. She has said her goodbyes but will greatly miss her care team, especially nurses Jeannie and Kara, and her care manager, Taya. As she leaves the Shriners Hospitals for Children health care system, she wants to share her story, be a role model for other kids and help other children have the same opportunities that she has had. She wants them to know that all the travel and staying away from home is worth receiving the treatment. “Do not be afraid,” she said. “It is a blessing, not a sacrifice.” Elizabeth said Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston is a place of hope where kids feel safe and get better. “If you take the chance, you will win,” she shared.