March 11, 2005

Contact: Jennifer Riordan, 272-0261 office, 220-0702 cell

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

On March 17, Las Cruces local Stephanie Gonzalez will visit Capitol Hill to share her amazing survival story with the world. Joining Gonzalez will be a 7-year-old from Idaho who survived a broken neck, a teenager who survived pancreatic cancer, and many children from across the country with remarkable stories of their own.

Gonzalez, 11, has been chosen as the 2005 Ambassador for the Foresters Champions Across America program for the state of New Mexico. Gonzalez suffered from a rare and serious brain injury Acute Hemorrhagic leukoencephalitis. Her brain became swollen from having the flu, strep and pneumonia that left her in a coma for two weeks and gave her less than a 20 percent chance of survival.

Gonzalez, originally of Las Cruces, NM, was airlifted to the University of New Mexico Children's Hospital (UNMCH) because of the highly specialized doctors, nurses and staff that UNM hospital has available to care for New Mexico's children. Within five months, Gonzalez miraculously went from being on life support to being treated as an outpatient at UNM Carrie Tingley Hospital where she was schooled and received intensive physical therapy. This year, as a fifth grader, Gonzalez attends Inez Elementary where physical therapy is part of the school's everyday curriculum. 

As one of 50 children—one from every state—who are cared for at Children's Miracle Network hospitals throughout North America, Gonzalez will meet with U.S. senators on Capitol Hill to share the message that her life—and the lives of millions of children just like hers—are better because of the tremendous work of children's hospitals. Gonzalez will also spread the word by participating in the national television production of the Children's Miracle Network Celebration at Walt Disney World, March 21-23.

"Gonzalez's experience is just one of many stories that illustrate the importance of children's hospitals," said Grammy winner LeAnn Rimes, who will accompany the Champion children to Washington. "Generous people in each community make it possible for hospitals like the University of New Mexico Children's Hospital to provide the absolute best care for kids."

Gonzalez will be honored at a local event Saturday, March 12, at Dairy Queen on Montgomery and Louisiana at 11:30 a.m.

A division of the UNM Health Science Center, the UNMCH is an academic medical center with health care providers who are expertly trained to provide the most advanced neonatology and pediatric care available in New Mexico.

Children's Miracle Network—the alliance of premier hospitals for children—is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and improving the lives of children by raising funds for children's hospitals across North America. Each year the 170 Children's Miracle Network hospitals provide the finest medical care, life-saving research and preventative education to help millions of kids overcome diseases and injuries of every kind.


Contact: Jennifer Riordan, 272-3322