Beatriz Vasquez estimates she’s spent more time at the hospital than at her school.
“It was hard,” Beatriz said. “I missed out on a whole lot. There are some times I email the teachers to send me work at the hospital. Or when I come back, I just get this whole bunch of work and try to catch up.”
But through it all, Beatriz has always made time for her education.
“She’s had long extended absences,” Northridge Academy High assistant principal Alex Carmona said. “And when you think it’s going to be very difficult for her to make up all the work, she somehow comes back with a lot of dedication and a smile on her face which is just incredible.”
Beatriz was born with a Ventricular Septal Defect, a heart defect due to an abnormal connection between the lower chambers.
“Emotionally, I was devastated,” Beatriz’s mother Rosa Vasquez said. “I felt hopeless as a mom. I felt that I couldn’t do anything. I think a mom’s instinct is always trying to help your child. Trying to get them better.”
Beatriz underwent multiple procedures and surgeries, often requiring long stays in the hospital.
“There were just some times where my mom would say, ‘We have to go to the hospital,’” Beatriz said. “I’d cry. Because I don’t like being in the hospital. I hate IVs. I hate just being there. I’d rather be at home in my own bed with my sisters.”
Her life was in no way normal as much as she tried to make it that way.
“She’s never been a child who could just enjoy life at its fullest,” Rosa Vasquez said. “She was a child who was constantly in the hospital.”
As her heart weakened, Beatriz was placed on the waiting list for a transplant. On Oct. 24, 2016, Beatriz and her family received a phone call from a nurse that would change their lives.
“She said, ‘we have a heart for you,’” Rosa Vasquez said.
After a successful heart transplant in November 2016, Beatriz returned to school in the fall of 2017, much to the delight of the staff at Northridge Academy.
“I would like to think that we lifted her up,” Northridge Academy High principal Nidia Castro said. “We held her and we held her tight at times. And we let her go at other times. Going to what she needed to do. But it was a commitment that everyone who has come into her life academically had. We loved her and continue to love her. And I think that made it easy for us to do all the extra stuff that we needed to do.”
Despite her limited time at Northridge Academy, the impact Beatriz has made on the school is overwhelming.
“I’ve had a lot of special students over the years,” Carmona said. “But she is the best in terms of the motivation. In terms of how she motivates her peers. But not only the peers, but also the adults. We’re inspired by her story. By her strength. By her resiliency. It’s just amazing. It’s unlike anything else I’ve seen in my life.”