The hospital can be a scary place — especially if you’re alone.
Fifteen-year-old Caley Trepac, a sophomore at Plainfield South High School, would often express concern for other patients while she was being treated at Rush University Medical Center last fall.
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“There were numerous kids that were there by themselves a lot,” mom Wendy Frydrych-Trepac said, remembering how Caley would ask her if she could go comfort the younger patients.
“During her hospital stay she held onto her teddy bear at all times,” Wendy said. “Even though Caley was in extreme pain, her heart still broke for all the other children in the hospital, especially the ones who spent time without family members."
Now, almost a year after she had surgery to treat a rare brain malformation, Caley wants to make sure other kids have something to hold onto when they get scared.
Until Nov. 5 — the anniversary of her surgery — the teen is collecting teddy bears to send to young patients at Rush.
Now starting her sophomore year at PSHS, Caley was diagnosed in 2011 with chiari, syringomyelia and scoliosis. Chiari is a malformation that causes the brain to descend out of the back of the skull and into the cervical region, Wendy explained, while syringomyelia is a disorder that forces spinal fluid into the spinal cord.
The teen’s illnesses came to light after she began having severe headaches and problems with her vision.
“She started having headaches and she would get blurred vision and kind of tingling in her face,” Wendy said. “Her vision would go black.”
While there is no cure for chiari, surgery can relieve the pressure on the spinal cord. Often, patients must have multiple surgeries, Wendy said, since the brain continues growing until most people are in their early 20s.
Last fall, Caley had a decompression surgery and a laminectomy. “They remove a portion of the skull, cut the lining of the brain use a skin graft to cover the brain and shave down the first two vertebrae,” Wendy explained.
“Caley has always been a loving, caring girl but it amazed me how concerned she was with the baby in the room next to her in ICU,” Wendy said. “She heard the baby crying and was so sad when she heard there that most of the time there was no parent in the room. She also saw a toddler in a stroller playing with a piece of paper that broke her heart. Caley always had a parent staying with her along with other relatives and friends. Since then she has talked about trying to collect stuffed animals and wanting to bring them to the children on her one year anniversary.”
Nearly a year after her surgery, Caley is doing better, but has to avoid certain types of exercise to avoid putting pressure on her brain.
“She has lifelong restrictions,” Wendy said. Things like rollercoasters, trampolines, horseback riding and scuba diving are off-limits to the teen.
“Anything that causes an extra change in pressure, even a sneeze — you just don’t know,” Wendy said. At first, she said Caley was afraid of being seen as different because of her limitations, but “she has wonderful, supportive friends,” Wendy said.
Now, Caley is looking to send the same kind of support to other young patients. The family will accept donations of teddy bears until Nov. 4.
To arrange for donation drop-off or pickup, contact Wendy at email@example.com.
Monetary donations can also be made via PayPal using the email address Jeff.firstname.lastname@example.org.
To make a donation using PayPal, create or log in to your account, then click the “Buy” tab and select “make a payment.” Then, type in your email address in the “from” field, and Jeff.email@example.com in the “to” field and type in the dollar amount you would like to donate.
Other ways to help
A drop box will also be located at the Plainfield Public Library, 15025 S. Illinois St.
The American Legion in Joliet, 2625 Ingalls Ave., will host a bear-stuffing workshop from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 20. For more information on the event, call Janet Palkon at (815) 474-6649 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.