At 18 years old, Yeira strives to live her best life with a positive attitude—despite living with a unique condition that has no cure. Having lived her life within the wings of Phoenix Children’s, Yeira has faced her share of challenges. Yet, she is a firm believer in miracles and always greets people with a smile.
“When she is around others, she is always concerned about how they are doing and is respectful toward them,” says Yanet, Yeira’s mother. “She doesn’t let her illness take over her life. She’s a fighter.”
Yeira has fought a lengthy battle with intestinal lymphangiectasia, a rare digestive disorder in which the lymph vessels in the small intestine are blocked, preventing the absorption of fats and proteins.
The condition causes constant pain and requires daily treatment at home and at the hospital.
Still, Yeira strives to live like a typical teenager and sees a future where she’s fighting for other children as a pediatrician at the hospital she considers a second home.
“I’ve never been afraid of facing anything that’s come my way,” Yeira says. “Having my medical condition can be quite a rollercoaster—from going in and out of the hospital to getting surgeries. But in the end, all of these events make me a stronger person.”
A need for constant care
During Yanet’s pregnancy with Yeira, doctors discovered an abnormality during the first trimester. Uncertain of the problem, medical staff continued to check Yanet monthly. During her eighth month of pregnancy, doctors induced Yanet because Yeira was struggling in the womb.
After her birth, Yeira and Yanet transferred to Phoenix Children’s.
“The process of diagnosing Yeira’s condition took almost a year,” Yanet says.
Because Yeira’s small intestine can’t absorb fats and proteins, she has trouble eating by mouth. She relies on total parenteral nutrition, a feeding method in which she receives liquid nutrients through her veins.
As a result of her disorder, Yeira also deals with lymphedema, tissue swelling caused by a buildup of the protein-rich fluid that usually drains through the lymphatic system. She undergoes daily treatment to help combat fluid retention, and Yanet gives her massages.
“We have a hospital here at home,” says Yanet. “She uses four pumps at home; we use them every single day since she needs a lot of medication. We call the pumps her ‘best friends.’ She’s so comfortable. She doesn’t complain about anything. I do all of her treatments except for one. I’m her nurse all the time—24 hours a day.”
If Yeira doesn’t receive daily treatments, the fluid can seep into her organs. She once experienced a heart attack because fluid seeped into her heart. Her condition weakens her immune system, so she’s faced many life-threatening situations over the years. She also misses school two to three times a week because she’s in pain or ill.
Despite all she endures daily, Yeira always has a smile to give. When doctors ask her to rate her pain on the smiley-face pain scale, Yeira always responds with the happiest face, even when her pain is at a 10, the highest level. She’s been that way since early childhood, Yanet says.
- “I always say that you only live life once. I am not going to be restrained by all my medication—all my pain. To not go out just because I’m not feeling well? That’s just a waste of life.”Yeira
Solace in a familiar place
Yeira is a lifetime patient of Phoenix Children’s and adores the hospital and staff who have helped her on her challenging medical journey. They feel like family and have helped her fight when her life has been on the line.
When Yeira takes a trip to the emergency department and the nurses hear she’s getting admitted, they decorate her room.
“I was really obsessed with Justin Bieber,” Yeira says. “I was a big fan. Before I was admitted, they decorated my room with posters that said, ‘Mrs. Bieber, Welcome Home!’ Or, if it was Halloween, they would decorate my room with a Halloween theme. So, I’ve always felt loved at the hospital.”
During her trials and pain, she has also found comfort in Child Life, Animal-Assisted Therapy, 1 Darn Cool School, and The Zone—programs fully funded by philanthropy. These programs allow her to create and focus on what she loves. She is an artist, so she enjoys crocheting, drawing and painting using craft kits. This helps her stay positive through the challenges.
- “I feel double proud because normal kids have only one goal—school. For her, she has two goals: her health and her school. I’m so proud of her.”YanetYeira’s Mom
A fight for the future
Like many high school seniors, Yeira is preparing for graduation. Her last trip to Phoenix Children’s occurred in October 2021. Yanet says Yeira usually goes every month, sometimes more than once, but things remain stable for now. This leaves Yeira with more time to be a normal teenager.
She enjoys spending time with her supportive friends and making a fashion statement wherever she goes. She is also a Children’s Miracle Network Ambassador and advocates for the charitable support of children’s hospitals across the U.S., including Phoenix Children’s. Yeira leads a busy life.
“I always say that you only live life once,” she says. “I am not going to be restrained by all my medication—all my pain. To not go out just because I’m not feeling well? That’s just a waste of life.”
Yeira recently attended her school’s prom with her brother as her date. She considers herself a unique fashionista like Lady Gaga, another musician she loves—almost as much as Justin Bieber. Yeira wanted to attend simply to sport the dress and make her mark before moving on and preparing for the future like other young adults.
After graduation, Yeira will enjoy her summer before starting college at Arizona State University for the 2022 fall semester. She’s ready to achieve her dream of being a pediatrician and hopes to provide other children with the quality care she received during her journey at Phoenix Children’s.
Yeira’s family couldn’t be prouder. She says her family is very close, much closer than other families, because of all they have endured. They stand by her as she fights for her future—a future her mother dreamed of.
“I feel double proud because normal kids have only one goal—school,” says Yanet. “For her, she has two goals: her health and her school. I’m so proud of her.”
You can help bring hope, healing and world-class health care to lifetime patients like Yeira.
It’s Miracle Month of May at Costco. You can support patients like Yeira by donating to Phoenix Children’s at the register of any Costco location this month.