(SIOUX CITY, IA) - A Sioux City preschooler is fighting for her life. The Martinez family found out just weeks ago their five-year-old daughter has lymphatic cancer and leukemia and they can't afford the medical bills.Onawa's parents knew something was wrong with their daughter back in January. The vivacious little girl had turned into a different person. Now her diagnosis has turned their world upside-down.
Onawa Martinez is a fun-loving preschooler but you wouldn't know it now. Cancer has changed her from a little girl with a big smile to a very sick, shy child. "One day Onawa said to me, 'Mom I have one ball on my head.' I checked. She had one ball here and the other here and two more here," said mother Alba Ramos de Martinez. Onawa told her mom she didn't have any pain, but Alba brought her to the doctor to get the bumps checked out. "It's cancer," said Ramos de Martinez. Lymphatic cancer and leukemia - the worst news any parent can hear. And Onawa is their only child. "I've had difficult things in my life like the death of my father, but this situation. I can't compare. That my child is sick. It's the worst that she could lose her life. It's a pain I can't explain," said Ramos de Martinez.
"It was a change that broke my life, our lives that we have to say our daughter is sick - the cancer," said father Alberto Martinez. Every Tuesday the family goes to Children's Hospital in Omaha. Alba said doctors tell them Onawa will be fine. They've treated 85 percent of her cancer so far because the chemo is extremely aggressive. Just one of Onawa's medical bills costs $80,000. That's when the Mary J. Treglia Community House decided to step in: the place where Onawa takes preschool and her mother takes English classes. "Everybody's just been in shock and then of course right away you know how women are? Right away everybody goes into what can we do to help mode," said Eric DeLeon, Director of Mary J. Treglia Community House.
DeLeon and her staff put their heads together and came up with a fundraiser for little Onawa: a benefit luncheon. People can order a meal to pick up on Monday April 29 for $10/plate. "For me it's thank you! Thank you!" said Alba Ramos de Martinez. "The good pride for the people that help me, my family and my daughter," said Alberto Martinez. "It's really hard to see what they're going through. Everybody just felt that they needed to do something and this is the one thing that we could think of that we could make a difference for them," said DeLeon.
Alba said she had advice that she hopes will make a difference for every parent. She said parents need to check their children for physical signs of illness and monitor their energy level because that's how she found out Onawa's health wasn't well.
If you'd like to reserve a meal to help Onawa and her family, you can call (712) 258-5137 or stop by Mary Treglia at 900 Jennings Street. Security National Bank is also collecting donations for Onawa's family at any of its locations.