Hospital Centro Materno Infantil, Asuncion, Paraguay
Gigson’s smile is infectious. It transforms his face with an impish splash. He’s seven years old but the self-confidence he projects makes him seem older.
His mother, Graciela, looks like she has a sense of humor — which is probably good with a son like Gigson. But she also looks very tired.
They have come a long way on a long bus trip from their home to the hospital in Asuncion.
Home is in Puerto Presidente Franco, a straight shot east, all the way to the Brazilian border.
Situated on the Parana River, it is one of the largest ports in the region, shipping large quantities of mate and timber.
At this point the town has begun to merge with the large city of Ciudad Del Este to the north and has become a cultural melting pot of influences due to the fact that it is near the borders of Argentina and Brazil.
It is very tropical with heavy rainfall, huge forests and beautiful waterfalls.
It is here that Gigson and Graciela would rather be. Not in a hospital room, and certainly not with Gigson’s illness.
In March of 2008, he was diagnosed with Leukemia. Life since then has been a blur of traveling and treatments.
The two of them look remarkably composed compared to the actual chaos of their lives.
During some of the past 11 months Gigson and Graciela have made the trip to Asuncion every other week, staying in Asuncion for a week and then back home for a week.
Some times, due to his schedule or side effects or health issues they have had to stay in Asuncion for a full month.
Either way it’s grueling. Many times Graciela has had to leave Gigson’s brother, ten-year-old Gustavo, with her mother in San Lorenzo.
Gustavo has also been ill for years with heart problems and is currently not able to attend school.
Graciela’s husband Gerardo has had to stay back home. He works as a musician and DJ. Jobs have been intermittent at best and money is short.
Their two older sons Gerald, 16 and Elvis 23 do what they can to help. Elvis works with his father in the music business.
The family is split up – a hardship for everyone. For Graciela and Gerardo there is a bright spot. Although the transportation costs are very high for their tiny budget, ($20.00 for the two of them each trip) and the added costs of food and other items are difficult to manage, their medicines for Gigson’s chemotherapy are free.
These drugs come from donations made to Paraguayan public hospitals by Krebsallianz. Without these donations Gigson’s family would never be able to raise the money necessary for treating his illness. Graciela gives thanks every day for this.
If Gigson needs tests while at the Hospital Centro Materno Infantil they are asked to give a $5.00 donation. When this is not possible he will get the tests anyway.
At the beginning, when Gigson was first diagnosed, many people rallied around to help. Sometimes the people who hired Gerardo to play music gave a little extra.
These things helped. Unfortunately this trend has slackened but it allowed the family to move forward at a crucial time.
And even though things are still hectic, a pattern has emerged. Gigson has become used to a life without his beloved futbol and bicycle and learned to like quieter things.
Traveling long distances on the bus is more routine. When he is at the hospital he knows the staff by now.
There is a mutual affection between them. He is fun loving and good spirited. Graciela is helpful and patient. But the whole family misses its time together.
Sometime Gigson cries for his brothers and father — and Graciella admits that some times she does too.