Gilbert Mendoza, Jr. had no idea how much love would come into his life when he became a dad. Gilbert and his daughter, Jaylene, live in Brawley, two hours east of San Diego in Imperial County. Jaylene is a sweetheart who loves to talk to everyone. He became worried when Jaylene said her back hurt, and she had bruises for no reason.
Doctors sent them to San Diego, where she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She was admitted for treatment just nine days after her fifth birthday. Jaylene had to stay at the hospital. “I was scared of losing her,” Gilbert recalls. “She’s my world.”
Gilbert had to leave work to take care of Jaylene. He couldn’t have afforded a hotel or meals, or managed the two-hour drive home. Gilbert remembers how stressful the experience was:
I didn’t know what I was going to do. When I found out they had room for me at the Ronald McDonald House, I cried. I felt a huge load lifted off my shoulders.
Jaylene needed multiple rounds of chemotherapy. She was able to do some of it at the Ronald McDonald House, with a nurse coming to their room. Gilbert could monitor her temperature, and they could get to the hospital right away if her condition changed.
When Jaylene was up for it, they played outside. She liked to be pulled in a wagon at the Ronald McDonald House, and she greeted people like a princess.
Dad and daughter were together from day one, thanks to San Diego’s Ronald McDonald House. “I am so grateful we could be together. Hard as it is, this terrible diagnosis has brought us even closer. She knows I’m here to help her any way I can.”