Hebelin carries herself with wisdom well beyond her years, despite the fact that she’s just 14 years old. Originally from Venezuela, Hebelin is a bright, young teen who enjoys going to school (especially art class!) and spending time with her loving family. But behind her poised presence and encouraging smile is an awe-inspiring story to tell: a lifelong battle with Sickle Cell Anemia, and a family’s incredible journey across continents to save their daughter.
Their story began on Hebelin’s first birthday when she received her official diagnosis of Sickle Cell Anemia, a genetic blood disorder. The year ahead involved a dozen hospitalizations, blood transfusions, gallbladder and appendix surgery, and various other treatments to try and manage Hebelin’s pain. As hard as the doctors tried, nothing worked. Hebelin’s father, Heberto, remembers the countless sleepless nights he and his family endured throughout that year – but also, the miracles.
“She developed pneumonia during an anemia crisis and fell unconscious,” Heberto recalls. “The doctors didn’t understand what was happening to her, so we just prayed. We prayed, and we received a miracle that night.”
“Another time, Hebelin was in the hospital on oxygen, and the electricity was turned off,” remembers Heberto. “I carried my baby to my car and drove from hospital to hospital looking for power so that my baby would live.” As they were about to give up hope, they finally found a hospital with power and narrowly saved Hebelin’s life.
It was then that Heberto and Lisseth knew the key to their baby’s survival was to leave their lives in Venezuela and immigrate to the United States. Fast forward, Hebelin is now in eighth grade and thriving socially, academically, and medically! Thanks in part, her parents say, to the support they’ve received from ASK.
“ASK has loved our family and thoroughly changed our lives. Life has been really hard for our daughter, but ASK’s education support navigator has helped Hebelin get settled into a safe and supportive environment where she can learn a new language and be a teenager. ASK has provided financial support and emotional support through family events. We came to the U.S. with God’s help, and the people at ASK have been our angels on this journey!” - ASK dad Heberto
Hebelin’s favorite ASK events include the Holiday Party, the Richmond Zoo trip, Bingo night, and weekly after-school socials where she practices her English and makes new friends. “There are so many good things about ASK,” Hebelin beams. “Words cannot describe what ASK has done for our family. Donors can see with their own eyes the kids like me who are happy even though we’re in clinic and receiving treatments. That’s because of ASK.”
“We live every day to the maximum and do everything together as a family,” Heberto continues. “Sickle Cell is a sickness that many people don’t know about, so it’s important to raise awareness of the disease and how it affects our children. We went to several countries to find treatments for our daughter, and we are so grateful that her pain can be managed now. We look forward to a day when our daughter can be free of this disease.”