For her efforts at increasing public awareness and support for the medical condition that has afflicted her son Joey for the past nine years, the Tracy resident has been named American Red Cross Hero of the Year for this region of California.
Ruiz received the honor during a recent awards breakfast at Wine & Roses in Lodi, an event sponsored by the News 10 Sacramento television station.
She was recognized for establishing “A Pocketful of C.H.A.N.G.E: Changing Hydrocephalus,” a nonprofit foundation to promote understanding of and research into the chronic brain condition her son has had since birth.
“I’m doing my best to create a greater awareness about this condition that is more prevalent than many people realize,” Ruiz said.
She reported that Joey was born in a difficult delivery and that trauma is believed to be the principal cause of his brain condition, in which spinal fluid collects at the outer surface of the brain.
Since the condition was diagnosed 18 months after his birth, her son has undergone 16 surgeries to drain the fluid and also to insert a VP shunt, in which a catheter is placed through the skull into a ventricle of the brain, either to drain fluid or to keep fluid inside where there is damage to the ventricular space or blockage.
“Joey’s last surgery was in January to remove scar tissue from his brain stem,” his mother reported. “He has some weaknesses in his arms and legs, but right now he is doing well as a fourth-grade honor student at Bella Vista Christian Academy.”
Over the past nine years, the 37-year-old Ruiz has developed a close relationship with California Children’s Hospital in Oakland, and some of the funds she is working at collecting through her foundation may be used to support Dr. Peter Sun’s work in hydrocephalus treatment.
Funds also will be used to promote awareness among the public and health-care professionals and to help families, as well as to stir up community support through public meetings, media exposure and social media such as Facebook.
So far, Ruiz has raised $35,000 to promote foundation goals, with most of that money going to research institutions and some to families.
“I’m working at developing the foundation and going it mostly on my own,” Ruiz said. “But it’s something I feel very strongly about, and worth everything I can put into it.”
Additional information can be found at www.changehydrocephalus.org or by phoning Ruiz at 597-8105.