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Child becomes ill, community steps up

First-grader's brain tumor is met by outpouring of help and sympathy.

April 08, 2011|By Megan O'Neil,
  • Rosemary Romo, 7, left, reads to her mother, Jackie Garcia, while Garcia takes care of her nephew, Max Krul, in her Burbank home on Tuesday, April 5, 2011. In December 2010, Romo was sent to to the hospital after feeling sick at school one day, Garcia says. She was complaining of a headache, was sent to the nurse's office and started vomiting and soon lost conscious. Romo was diagnosed with Pilomyxoid Astrocytoma, a brain tumor in the frontal lobe which can't be removed. The doctors' main goals for Romo's cancer is to shrink the tumor in her brain completely and to avoid radiation. (Cheryl A. Guerrero/Staff Photographer)
Rosemary Romo, 7, left, reads to her mother, Jackie Garcia,…

On a recent afternoon, Rosemary Romo sat in her living room in Burbank working diligently on an illustration of a smiling cat and a pair of juicy strawberries.

It was an ordinary activity for a 7-year-old, except for the fact that just three 1/2 months earlier, the Jefferson Elementary School first-grade student was in the intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, her basic motor skills decimated by an inoperable brain tumor. It required weeks of intensive therapy for Rosemary to regain her ability to even pick up a Crayola marker.

“She has learned how to write [and] to read again, how to speak again, how to walk,” said her mother, Jackie Garcia. “That took six to seven weeks for her to come back to what she is doing now.”

Rosemary’s prognosis is good. While the tumor is too close to a nerve that affects eyesight to operate on, weekly out-patient chemotherapy treatments have shrunk it. Doctors and therapists hope to have her back in class at Jefferson Elementary sometime in May.


And most encouraging of all, family members said, is the extraordinary outpouring of emotional and financial support that has come from co-workers, neighbors and fellow Burbank Unified families.

“It means a lot that people care that much,” Garcia said. “Sometimes you get so involved in your own world you don’t realize what is going on around you. This just touched so many people. It is just amazing; it has left me in awe.”

A crisis

On Dec. 17, Rosemary made a visit to the nurse’s office at Jefferson Elementary School. A severe headache had her in tears. Then she began vomiting, and she lost consciousness.

Garcia received a call at her job at a dialysis center in Northridge informing her that an ambulance was transporting her daughter to St. Joseph Providence Medical Center. There, doctors discovered a large mass in her brain.

“She wasn’t responsive at all,” Garcia said. “I was trying to talk to her and that is when I knew something was really serious.”

Rosemary was moved to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where she would remain in the intensive care unit for two weeks. Doctors eventually determined that she had a low-grade tumor in her frontal lobe that was putting pressure on her brain. The tumor is non-aggressive, but an operation to remove it would be risky, said Anna Evans, a nurse practitioner at the Hospital who is working on the case.

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