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2019 Miracle Child: Andrea Valdivia

One thing that  Erica Acosta knew was that she wanted a baby. Yet, every pregnancy she had proved troublesome and after her third miscarriage, she just gave up.
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“I started to think I just can’t have kids,” she said.

Fast forward to ten years later  Erica was hospitalized with a severe case of the flu. As she recovered in the hospital, the doctor approached her with surprising news.

“I was so sick that the doctor thought I had the West Nile virus,” Erica said. “But the doctor comes in and tells me I am pregnant. I couldn’t believe it,” she exclaimed. “I started crying. After three miscarriages, I was finally pregnant!”

As Erica advanced in her pregnancy, she was diagnosed with diabetes. When she was at 36 weeks, she went to her doctor and was told she must go to the hospital right away. The baby’s heartbeat was dropping and a C-section was inevitable.

“I went in crying and asking God not to let me lose my baby,” she said.

Thankfully, Baby Andrea was born and survived!

When she turned one, though, her family began to notice something seemed off about the baby’s head. Erica, too, began to recognize something was wrong, not so much with her daughter’s head, but with her forehead. When Andrea was three, she began to complain of headaches and of trouble with her vision.

“The eye doctor told me she needed glasses,” said Erica who went on to meet with Dr. Violeta Radenovich, Pediatric Ophthalmologist.

Dr. Radenovich observed Andrea’s eyes. “The baby was not tracking well,” she said. “It looked like her eyes were not aligned well and we call that strabismus, a misalignment of the eyes. But during the exam, the eyes had good alignment,” said the doctor. “The problem was the skull. It was closing too prematurely and the bone around the eyes was abnormal.”


Andrea was referred to Dr. David Yates, Pediatric Cranial and Facial Surgeon at El Paso Children’s Hospital.

“There was concern that there was actually pressure being placed on her brain that could result in blindness and even death,” said Dr. Yates. “That some of the sutures in her skull were not growing appropriately and that they were fused prematurely.”

Diagnosed with craniosynostosis, Andrea became one of the approximately 175 infants born each day in the United States with this condition.

“This is her skull,” said Dr. Yates, “that is printed on a 3D model. Our CT Scan found a suture right here that was completely fused which is what created this large forehead,” he said, “and this unusual head shape. Andrea was four,” he added, “usually this is present in children when they are babies.”

Erica was given two options of her daughter’s condition if not for surgery. “Either Andrea was going to die or she was going to be blind,” said Erica. “I had to do it for her. My mom was with me the whole time. We both started crying. She was trying to calm me down and was telling me to leave everything in God’s hands. And that’s exactly what I did.”

Dr. Yates was able to reshape the anterior portion of Andrea’s skull. We go in and with our neurosurgeon colleague, Dr. Timothy T. Trier, our new Craniofacial Neurosurgeon we made cuts through the skull. We took off the skull,” he continued, “and my part was to come in and reshape the skull.”

Dr. Radenovich is impressed that children in Andrea’s situation can stay in El Paso for surgical procedures.

“We used to send most of these children to Dallas to our cranial facial clinic there,” she said. “The social issues were very high because most of these patients do not have money to move from one town to another for lodging and for food. Besides, they need special insurance to address all of these problems.”

Dr. Yates agrees. “El Paso Children’s Hospital is the only hospital between Phoenix and San Antonio that has national certification for a cranial facial team. And not just me who is the cranial facial surgeon,” he said, “but a neurosurgeon, speech language pathologist, occupational therapist, nutritionist, cranial facial orthodontist, pediatrician, pediatric dentist and really, an entire team of people who are able to treat these patients.”

“I think it is really important, for everyone in the community to understand that by supporting El Paso Children’s Hospital, you are supporting your hospital. It is our hospital. It is everyone’s in El Paso, Juarez and everyone 400-miles in every direction. This,” said Dr. Yates,” is the Children’s Hospital that is taking care of kids at the most acute and critical level in the entire region, and it’s really an important resource for El Paso. I’m so excited to be a small part of it. Andrea is doing great. She is growing up. She is in school and she is doing everything that she should be doing. I’m really excited about her future.”

Want to help more children at El Paso Children’s Hospital like Miracle Child Andrea? Donate today!