Laveen native Patricia Valdez, her husband and children found themselves in a scary place in May when mom’s brain surgery caused the early arrival of their daughter, Austyne.
A group of strangers in the Laveen community learned of the family’s plight and got together, made a few plans and then threw a surprise baby shower for the Valdez family.
“It’s changed the way I look at life,” Valdez said. “I think more about how you feel about people and how they love you.” Patricia, pregnant with the second of their two children, learned in February during the pregnancy that she has a brain tumor on her pituitary gland.
“(The tumor) was pressing on my optical nerve. I was having trouble seeing and I kept fainting,” Valdez recalls. Unable to safely drive and manage the multiple medical appointments, she lost her job in medical billing and turned her focus on trying to stay healthy for her unborn baby.
Despite the many risks of operating on a pregnant woman, doctors encouraged Valdez to undergo brain surgery in late April when she was 28 weeks pregnant. She said the doctors explained that the pituitary gland sits on two arteries in the brain and surgery for it is risky without the added stress of another life depending on the outcome.
On April 30, the surgery took place and within 24 hours the shock sent Valdez into premature labor. Austyne was born May 1. Patricia said that Austyne got to come home from NICU on June 28 and is recovering well from her early arrival.
Although doctors could not remove all of the tumor, they are hopeful it will not grow larger again and will be monitoring Patricia’s health and progress.
“I posted a little something on Facebook just before going into surgery, and I woke up to a waiting room full of friends and family,” Valdez said. But with all of Valdez’ medical issues during the pregnancy, caring for their 3-year-old and her husband, Freddy, trying to keep up with his job and the mounting bills, there was no time to prepare for Austyne’s arrival.
That’s where the community stepped in. Danny Oquist heard some Laveen residents were trying to organize a surprise baby shower to help the family out with items necessary for a newborn baby. He talked to his wife, Kristi, and the couple, who had just opened Laveen CrossFit on May 15, offered their new business as a location. Kristi said she was born and raised in Laveen and helping her community is part of who she is.
Another of the organizers, Debbie Crenshaw, said that she and about seven others met at Starbucks and doled out jobs such as decorating, getting supplies etc.
“For the most part, none of us knew each other. We were perfect strangers coming together to help a perfect stranger,” she said.
On May 31, after letting Patricia’s husband in on the secret, the Valdez family showed up at Laveen CrossFit along with about 50 members of the community and stacks of baby gifts.
“I was pretty surprised,” Patricia said. “Never have I experienced anything like this happening.”
Crenshaw said everyone wore nametags because most people attending didn’t even know each other, but had showed up with gifts and donations to help. “Everyone was amazed at how the community came together,” she said.
Valdez also thanked the organizers publicly in a Facebook post and pledged that she and Freddy would play the kindness forward: “Thank you to everyone at Laveen Crossfit for donating the place to host it. Thank you to Robert Allen Pepiton for all of your donations, your amazing and thank you to your mother as well for her donation. Thank you to the lovely ladies who helped make this possible: Lundin Brown, Amanda Thomas, Nicole Allgood, Angela Quiroz, Ashley Mendívil, Kristy w/ LC, Koni Lamb Gould, Sharron Gibson, Claudia Cross-Pena, Debbie Crenshaw, Bobbie McLeod, Monique Cruz, and many more. “I would have never expected this. Not so often do you ever hear about communities working together for such a great cause. So, with that said. It’s up to me and Freddy to pay it forward to our town.”
Writer Rose Hutchinson Tring is a long-time journalist and owner of AZ Media Maven, a Laveen-based marketing and public relations company. She is also the founder of FinditinLaveen.com, a local business directory and free community resource. Email her at email@example.com
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