PILSEN — Too many times this past year, longtime Pilsen resident Sandra Garcia has faced the possibility that her newborn daughter might die.
Liliana “Lily Pad" Garcia, who is now 10 months old, weighed just over two pounds when Garcia gave birth to her 28 weeks into the pregnancy. Since then, the little girl has faced a mountain of health issues, including fluid on her brain, hearing loss and, most recently, an epilepsy diagnosis that almost took her life.
And her family has faced a mountain of health care costs, leading Garcia's sister, Pilsen artist Teresa Magana, to put out a call to her friends in the arts and business community to help.
The response? More than 30 Pilsen artists, poets and business owners have donated artwork and other items to be sold at a fundraiser from 3-10 p.m. Saturday at Cobalt Studio, 1950 W. 21st St.
The event will also feature raffles, music and a cash bar, with a $5 suggested entrance donation.
Money raised at Saturday’s event will help pay for Liliana’s medical care, while a portion will be donated to the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago.
“Speaking to the neighborhood, it’s really a day of community,” Magana said. “This is a true testament to what community can really get together to do.”
Blue Betties Boutique owner Laura Arellano, who grew up down the street from Garcia and Magana, created a line of Lily Pad jewelry that will be sold on Saturday.
“She’s such a little fighter. I love her like my family,” Arellano said of Liliana.
Liliana’s epileptic symptoms started in February when Garcia noticed her moving strangely and moaning. Several doctors attributed the behavior to colic, and it was only after Liliana’s physical therapist also saw the symptoms that the baby was diagnosed with epilepsy.
In May, Liliana was put on a ventilator and doctors told her parents she would most likely need a feeding tube. Garcia said she remembers calling her sister to come to her side at the hospital.
“As soon as she [Magana] walked in, I just got to my knees and I’m like, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen to her,'” Garcia said.
Though successfully removed from the ventilator, Liliana still faces many health problems, which were evident during a visit Thursday at Magana's Pilsen studio.
Her legs were covered in small dots from steroid injections. Her sensitivity to touch made it hard for her to grasp items. She has difficulty swallowing, so a feeding tube runs up her nose.
“She does try to pull her tube out and we have to go back in and put it in ourselves,” Liliana’s father, Luis Garcia, said as he touched his daughter’s tape-covered cheek.
Outside her studio, Magana’s children, Alena and Adriel, pass their cousin back and forth with the seriousness of adults. The brown-haired baby looks up and smiles a gummy grin at Alena, 11.
As a designer for an auto company, Sandra Garcia has health insurance, but the copays and extra costs have started to add up. Special formula, medical supplies, feeding pumps and therapy are all daily realities for Garcia and her husband. In February, when Liliana had to transfer hospitals to be put on the ventilator, the ambulance ride alone cost $4,000, Garcia said.
Liliana is starting to sit up on her own, and soon a small port in her stomach will eliminate her nose feeding tube. She hasn’t shown any signs yet of cerebral palsy, which Garcia said can be common for babies who have issues with fluid on the brain.
“She has a strength that I just admire so much. There’s times when she looks at me and I just feel like she has an old soul,” Garcia said. “She truly, truly is our hero.”