Willow Crisostomo’s middle name, Lux, means light in Latin. At five years old, she is a bright light of smiles, love and curiosity. But Willow’s future looked dim when she was born at less than 23 weeks, about half the length of a normal gestation. Just 14 ounces, Willow weighed about the same as a football.
Her parents, Stephanie and Joseph, who live in Bakersfield, were told that Willow had only a five percent chance of surviving. She had serious respiratory issues and needed surgery to correct a heart defect. Stephanie and Joseph decided to put their trust in the UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit)
After four months in the NICU, Willow was finally strong enough to go home. Her parents were grateful for the care they received at UCLA. “Everyone from the doctors to the respiratory therapists to the housekeeping staff made us feel like we were taken care of and a vital part of Willow’s team,” said Stephanie. “It’s a place that exemplifies a culture of care,” said Joseph.
Willow, her sister, parents and grandparents visited the UCLA Health Training Center and spent a day touring the facility. Willow met two Laker Girls who presented her with her own Laker Girls outfit and practiced some cheers with her. Willow couldn’t have been happier as she learned dances and cheers with the girls. Her presence really lit up the floor.
Two weeks later, the family returned for a Lakers game, dining in the Chairman’s Lounge and hanging out with the Laker Girls during the game. It was a great day for a sunny little girl and her family. During a timeout, Willow and some of the Laker Girls took the floor for her recognition. Willow was the star of the game.