Last month, through this column, you readers met a teen-ager named Sigfredo Gonzalez. He is a seriously ill leukemia patient at Children's Hospital. But that is only part of the reason Sigfredo's story touched so many of you.
This 16-year-old from El Salvador speaks no English. He stole into this country illegally last summer. He has no family here, no money and no possessions. All he has is courage -- and the total dedication of a hospital that has long been known for exactly that.
When my associate, Alexandra B. Stoddard, described Sigfredo's situation, you readers responded, not just with checks, but with compassion. Many of you have visited Sigfredo. Many more have inquired about his progress. So I asked Alexandra to prepare a follow-up report. Here it is:
Sigfredo Gonzalez is being treated this month for a secondary infection, which is fairly common following chemotherapy when white blood cell counts are low, according to his doctors at Children's.
Sigfredo has completed the prescribed three rounds of chemotherapy. In a few weeks, his doctors will decide whether he needs more chemotherapy before proceeding with a bone marrow transplant.
Lynn Hardesty, the social worker assigned to the case, says she is reluctant to encourage people to visit Sigfredo unless they can commit to seeing him regularly. "He needs to have friends, but not people who will only be there once or twice," said Lynn. "I don't want him to feel like he's on display."
Two employees of Spanish-language radio stations in the area are interested in telling Sigfredo's story to the Hispanic community. One broadcaster has contacts with a radio station in Los Angeles. He hopes to broadcast an appeal to Sigfredo's uncle, who lives in the L.A. area. Sigfredo does not know how to reach him. Nor does he want to write to his mother in El Salvador to ask her for an address because he does not want her to become worried about his condition.
According to Hardesty, Sigfredo is beginning to grasp how seriously ill he is. "He's asking more and more questions about everything that happens," she said. "When he gets an answer, he becomes silent and looks sad and withdrawn."
Sigfredo has made one important friend, according to Hardesty: A Salvadoran boy with whom Sigfredo shares a room whenever he stays at the Dorothy Day Catholic Workers House, a group home often used by Central and South Americans.
In addition, Sigfredo has started to bond more easily with people at Children's who have become familiar. He is visited regularly by volunteers and staff from Dorothy Day, and he has developed a closer relationship with his hospital-supplied interpreter, Mario Lamo. "He feels more comfortable the more he's around people," said Hardesty.
Although Sigfredo had several invitations for Christmas, he had to spend the holiday at Children's for medical reasons. According to Hardesty, he received presents and had some visitors, but was lonely nevertheless.
"I think that the hospital does a good job at trying to make it a festive day, but I believe that for Hispanics, Christmas Eve is more important than the day itself. And on Christmas Eve there was such a flurry on the floor. Everybody was trying to get out of here. It seems very sad that he was here by himself," Hardesty said.
She added that she is grateful for the outpouring of concern over Sigfredo. "Of course, what he really needs is someone to sponsor him. He needs permanent housing," she said. "But you can't look a gift horse in the mouth. I keep thinking that one of these calls is going to offer something really magical."
TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:
Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071.
THE CAMPAIGN ENDS ON JAN. 18.
Thanks to these recent group contributors to our fund-raising campaign:
Old Town Armory, Alexandria (a hearty $2,419.35, which represents 2.5 percent of sales for Dec. 13 through Dec. 25, 1990).
Central Delivery Service ($35).
Little River Patriots '76 ($40 discovered in the treasury when the group disbanded last spring).
Bath & Tile Boutique, Springfield ($50).
Theta Pi Sorority ($25).
Command Post Crew, A T & T, The Pentagon ($175).
The Happy Warriors, All Saints Episcopal Church, Sharon Chapel, Alexandria ($50).
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Rockville ($500).
Rod & Reel Repair, Mount Rainier ($100).
Staff and management, Williams-Sonoma, Alexandria ($100).
Office of Paratransit and Senior Citizens Building, Montgomery County Government, Wheaton ($25).
Voting Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice ($220).
E. A. Mueller, Virginia Operations ($140).
Defense Communications Agency, JDSSC, JNSS-The Pentagon ($52).