MIAMI – Isabella Pedraja was 12 years old when the unexpected happened.
She started having severe stomach pains. A pediatrician later diagnosed her with acute pancreatitis and spent the beginning of her journey at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
“I wanna say I’ve always felt that type of pain throughout my life but it’s never been as much as it was in that moment,” she said. “I felt excruciating back pain and my stomach hurt. I couldn’t lay down on my back and I had to lay down on my side and even that would hurt.”
There aren’t many doctors in South Florida who specialize in her diagnosis, so Isabella and her parents moved to Ohio for about two months, so she could get treatment at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
“It was kind of sad because I was just dropping everything I had in Miami,” said Isabella, who is now 13 years old.
Isabella had to undergo surgery to remove the pancreas and spleen. Her doctor had to reconstruct how her entire gastrointestinal system works.
“My mind didn’t catch up to the news and then when it happened I was like, ‘Wow, this is a lot.’”
Isabella had a long and difficult recovery ahead of her. Eventually, she was able to return to Miami for her eighth-grade graduation.
She said she had been through so much pain, physically and emotionally that she wanted to somehow give back to others who were suffering. She had an idea.
“Why don’t I raise money for Cincinnati and more importantly the pancreas unit,” Isabella said. “I don’t want parents and kids to worry about the money and to be in the moment with their kid.”
Her initial goal was to raise $5,000 but that changed quickly. She then raised her goal to $30,000 and then to $40,000. She more than surpassed her initial goal and made it to $60,000 in three weeks. Now her new goal is $100,000.
Isabella said her scar serves as a reminder that she needs to help those who are facing the challenge she and her family faced.
“It just shows who I am as a person. That’s my story. That’s my road map. That’s my life right there.”