Yeira, a resilient 19-year-old member of our Phoenix Children's family, faces every day with a positive attitude—despite living with intestinal lymphangiectasia, a rare digestive disorder that has no cure, causes constant pain, and requires daily treatment at home and at the hospital.
She's a firm believer in miracles, and advocates for kids' health when she's not dealing with her own challenges. As a superstar Children's Miracle Network patient ambassador, Yeira's appeared in the media and on posters and billboards across the Valley. Today, she's a proud freshman at Arizona State University. Her goal: to become a doctor at Phoenix Children's—the place she's calls her second home.
Her hard work hasn't gone unnoticed.
Basking in a big surprise
In February 2023, Desert Financial Foundation, Credit Union and employees donated more than $1 million to support Phoenix Children's 1 Darn Cool School—an essential program near and dear to Yeira's heart during her stays in the hospital. The program helped ensure she didn't fall behind while receiving treatment, and she's an honored 2022 graduate.
Because of her hard work and advocacy, our partners surprised Yeira with a $5,000 scholarship in addition to their donation to the program!
“When I received the scholarship, I was shocked and surprised,” Yeira says. “I honestly had no idea that they were going to do such an amazing thing for me. I'm super excited and thankful for this scholarship and to the people who made it happen.”
Yeira's family is so proud. “This scholarship will help Yeira a lot,” says Yanet, Yeira's mom. “Thank you so much to the people who made this decision.”
Overcoming life's obstacles
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 her small intestine can’t absorb fats and proteins, Yeira has trouble eating by mouth. She relies on total parenteral nutrition, a feeding method in which she receives liquid nutrients through her veins.
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; 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.
Despite all she endures daily, Yeira always has a smile to give. She says she's never been afraid of facing anything that's come her way. “Having my medical condition can be quite a rollercoaster—from going in and out of the hospital to getting surgeries,” she says. “But in the end, all of these events make me a stronger person.”
- “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
Finding solace in a familiar place
As a lifetime patient of Phoenix Children's, Yeira and her family adore 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 used to really be obsessed with Justin Bieber,” Yeira says. “I was a big fan. Before I was admitted, they would decorate 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.”
In addition to finding healing and hope through 1 Darn Cool School, she also found comfort in Child Life, Animal-Assisted Therapy, and The Zone—programs fully funded by philanthropy. They helped her stay positive through the challenges.
Fighting for the future
Like many first-year students, Yeira is adapting to college life at ASU. She says school can be difficult and stressful at times, but she's having fun.
“I have always loved school because I love to learn about new topics I never knew before,” Yeira says. “School also serves as a distraction for me when I'm in pain, especially when I am in the hospital.”
Yeira adds that she has good and bad days, but that doesn't discourage her from going on and achieving her dream.
“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.”
And Yeira has the support of her family. They're very close because of all they've endured, Yanet says, and they will always stand by Yeira 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.”
Partners Like You Make Miracles Happen
Thank you to Desert Financial Foundation, Credit Union and employees, for donating more than $1 million to support Phoenix Children's 1 Darn Cool School and patients like Yeira.
If you have a story about how your life has been touched by Phoenix Children’s, we want to hear from you.