Health cen­ter in­spires boy to be­come a nurse

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By El­iz­a­beth Her­nan­dez El­iz­a­beth Her­nan­dez: 303-954-1223, ehernan­dez@den­ver­ or @ehernan­dez

A Com­merce City boy who beat can­cer four years ago cred­its the non­profit health or­ga­ni­za­tion that first caught his tu­mor for his new­found as­pi­ra­tions to be­come a nurse.

Do­minic Mi­randa is a quiet 17-yearold boy with gauges in his ears who would rather talk about skateboarding than the fact that he bat­tled Ewing’s sar­coma in the sixth grade.

Mi­randa and his mother, Bianca Tru­jillo, walked into the Kids First Health Care Cen­ter at 4675 E. 69th Ave. on Tues­day and ex­haled.

“It all hap­pened here,” Tru­jillo said. “It’s a lit­tle over­whelm­ing.”

The cen­ter, along with its four school lo­ca­tions in Adams 14 school district and a West­min­ster build­ing, serves peo­ple from birth to age 21 who could not oth­er­wise af­ford health care.

Tru­jillo didn’t have in­sur­ance and started bring­ing Mi­randa to the cen­ter around 12 years ago for things like the com­mon cold and fevers.

“It’s a place where you feel very, very com­fort­able,” she said.

Her 8-year-old daugh­ter, Ny­lah Mi­randa, was born pre­ma­turely and taken care of with the help of Kids First, as well. Tru­jillo’s 14-year-old son Christo­pher Mi­randa re­fuses to see any other doc­tors than the ones he has grown up know­ing.

“They’re just happy when they come here,” Tru­jillo said.

When Do­minic woke up with a lump on his foot in De­cem­ber 2010, Tru­jillo knew who to turn to. Af­ter a tense ap­point­ment at the health care cen­ter and a re­fer­ral to Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal Colorado, Tru­jillo and her fam­ily were crushed to find out her old­est son had bone can­cer.

The physicians from Kids First came to Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal af­ter the di­ag­no­sis, of­fer­ing their con­do­lences, care pack­ages and sup­port that lasted for years.

The un­con­di­tional com­fort and med­i­cal as­sis­tance from the non­profit has in­spired Do­minic to be­come a nurse.

“The peo­ple here are kind and gen­er­ous,” Do­minic said. “I love it here. They in­spired me to do bet­ter, and I think nurs­ing would be a part of my na­ture now.”

Years af­ter the visit that changed her fam­ily’s life for­ever, Tru­jillo still has the per­sonal num­bers of staff at Kids First pro­grammed into her phone. She calls the doc­tors and nurses she has come to know so well when she is scared, con­fused or just in need of a friendly voice on the other end of the line.

“Imag­ine if I would have never known this place,” she said. “Th­ese peo­ple were the only peo­ple I had — the only peo­ple my fam­ily had — dur­ing those tough times.”

Be­cause of the school-based health clin­ics at Adams City High School, Lester Arnold High School, Adams City Middle School and Kear­ney Middle School, staff from Kids First con­tinue to check up on the Mi­randa kids dur­ing their school days.

The health cen­ter also has a lo­ca­tion at the Gre­gory Hill Early Child­hood Cen­ter in West­min­ster.

The school-based care cen­ters al­low kids to get treat­ment with­out miss­ing a chunk of their aca­demic day and with­out par­ents who may al­ready be strug­gling to take time off work, said Kids First Health Care ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Norma Port­noy.

With an av­er­age of 2.5 vis­its per year for each pa­tient, Port­noy said the cost to Kids First Health Care of pro­vid­ing vis­its for one year is $418 per child. The agency brings in about $255 per child per year from in­sur­ance and pa­tient pay­ments, leav­ing a gap of $163 per child per year that has to be brought in through fundrais­ing.

“I’m lucky enough to be able to see on a daily ba­sis the pos­i­tive im­pact we have on chil­dren’s lives,” Port­noy said. “I get a chance to see how grat­i­fied our fam­i­lies are.”

Bianca Tru­jillo talks Tues­day about her ex­pe­ri­ence deal­ing with her son Do­minic’s bone can­cer at Kids First Health Care in Com­merce City. Brent Lewis, The Den­ver Post

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