Photography by Reed Hutchinson
David Mezquita kisses daughter Vicky, while she was undergoing treatment at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA.
When Myra and David Mezquita had triplets, they knew they were blessed, even though they had their hands more than full caring for the new arrivals as well as their teenagers. Then one of the triplets, Vicky, was diagnosed with liver cancer and needed a transplant. Things seemed to be going well after the operation in April 2013. But less than a year later, Vicky was diagnosed with recurrent cancer in her new liver.
To eradicate some liver tumors that remained unaffected by the chemotherapy, the 4-year-old underwent chemotherapy and stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), a newer radiation treatment that noninvasively focuses high doses of radiation to kill tumors in a few treatment sessions. The Mezquitas were juggling treatment appointments and caring for their other children when they lost crucial supplemental funding they had used to pay for nursing care for Vicky. Their troubles were compounded when a utility-sparked fire destroyed their backyard, leaving the children no safe place to play.
Then a group of Westside teens who raise money through a charity they cofounded to help sick children, Teamwork Makes the Dream Work, learned of the family’s plight. Guided by the organization’s motto, “Aiming to do good wherever good can be done,” they held their annual garage sale and raised more than $5,100 for Vicky’s family, money to help them augment her nursing care and create a new backyard for Vicky and her siblings to enjoy.
Members of Teamwork Makes the Dream Work join medical staff and family members at Vicky Mezquita’s bedside.
“We went all over the Westside, from Santa Monica to West Hollywood, gathering donations for the garage sale,” group member Nahal Shakib, 19, says. “It was really important to us to raise a lot of money.” After the event, Shakib and members Jasmine Shaouli, 18, Leila Aframian, 17, and Devon Shalom, 17, presented a check to David Mezquita, who was visiting his daughter at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. The teens brought gifts for Vicky’s siblings as well. “It takes a lot of help to make good things happen,” David Mezquita says. “I’m very happy and pleased that everyone joined together as a team to make this happen. I’m very touched.”
Myra Mezquita says that, at times, the circumstances with which her family is dealing are “beyond imaginable. I can’t express the magnitude of our gratitude for the support we received from everyone.”
Percy Lee, MD, director of UCLA’s SBRT program, says he was pleased Vicky’s medical team was able to treat all the visible cancer with the new radiation therapy. “This little girl has been through a lot in the last four years, and we are hopeful that the treatments give her a fighting chance,” he says. Adds Julie Kang, MD, PhD, a resident in the Department of Radiation Oncology who helped connect the teens with the Mezquita family, “Parents can sometimes feel so alone in this big battle. It’s beyond amazing that these angels came out of nowhere to help them out.”