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Students and nurses help sick teen-ager

by Merrie Leininger, staff writer

Some friends are hoping to make this holiday season a little brighter for the Vargas family.

Angel Vargas, 18, was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia in July and has been in and out of hospitals ever since.

Soon, Angel could have a bone marrow transplant if his condition stabilizes. His brother, David, who is a year younger than Angel, has preliminarily tested positive as a bone marrow match.

Angel’s mother, Marcie Medina, has had to take a leave of absence from her job as a nurse at Barton Memorial Hospital and the skilled nursing center at Virginia Creek to care for Angel.

“They actually turned out to be a match, they think. They are doing further tests to make sure it is correct,” Medina said. “It all depends on if he goes into remission. If we don’t get to that point, we can’t do the bone marrow transplant.”

If Angel goes into remission, the brothers will have to undergo a procedure at a hospital in Seattle. Medina said she and Angel would have to stay in Seattle for at least three months while he recovers.

Her co-workers at Virginia Creek have rallied around the family – which also includes Angel’s father, Alvaro Vargas, who works at Jackson Quality Drywall, and his siblings, David, 17, Raymond, 15, Arthur, 15, and Krystal, 6.

The other nurses have held rummage sales, food drives and are now, with help from Angel’s former classmates at Douglas High School, crafting homemade Christmas ornaments to sell at the Future Business Leaders of America Craft Faire which will be held at DHS Dec. 2.

The future business leaders have pitched in by waiving the booth fee at the fair and are even helping the nurses make crafts for Angel’s booth.

According to nurse Nancy Rojas, the booth will offer many ways to help Angel and his family.

“Everything we sell will go toward the Vargas family fund. People are making all kinds of stuff. We will have potpourri, reindeer necklaces, whatever people know how to make,” Rojas said. “We will also have paper Angels on a Christmas tree for sale and people can write messages for him.”

For the past two weeks, the future business leaders, their advisor Jill Alley and the nurses have gotten together to make Christmas ornaments.

“It has been a lot of fun,” Rojas said. “Angel was there last week. I think he was a little overwhelmed. There was about eight staff members there and about seven students. We will be doing it again a week from Thursday (Nov. 30, from 6 to 10 p.m.) at Barton Skilled Nursing. Anyone can come. If people want to make some stuff at home and donate it, they can drop it off here.”

If you’re not a crafty person, you can help in other ways. With Medina off work, the family’s income is cut in half. The nurses have been holding a food drive at the skilled nursing center and on Dec. 9, they will be collecting food in front of Scolari’s grocery store.

“We want to support the family right now. It has been hard because Angel’s been up and down. He will be feeling great one day and be home, and the next morning have to go to the hospital for blood transfusion. They have been back and forth to Reno,” Rojas said. “We’re just rallying together. I have teen-agers, too. I just can’t imagine.”

Medina said she really appreciates all the work the nurses have done already.

She said the almost $3,000 raised by the rummage sale held in August has been used to buy medicine for Angel.

“It helped us a lot. We had to purchase a lot of medication. I used it very sparingly because I knew we might have to go to Seattle,” Medina said. “Since June 9, I think the longest time he has been home is three weeks. There have been lots of times he was discharged on a Friday and back on Monday because of complications of pain and nausea.”

Medina said that in the last week, he has been doing well and feeling good enough to be up and around.

She said that Angel’s illness has been very hard on the whole family, but that Angel has been the one to keep the hope alive for them.

“He’s really strong and he’s got all the hope and the faith,” Medina said. “He has the will to continue to go on. He’s been hanging in there. He’s a really tough kid.”

For more information, contact Nancy Rojas at 782-7846.