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Army mom reaches out for girls’ rescue

Photo courtesy of Shana Vasquez

A rare string of events have caused heartache and anxiety for the Vasquez family. Two of Matt and Shana’s three young daughters have unusual medical conditions that require continuous observation and treatment.

Shana has taken it upon herself to completely research and learn these conditions, the statistics, and the options that are available to her precious, young girls at this stage in their life and as they grow.

Luckily there is a solution to ease their worries, and her name is Pixie. After the application and acceptance, the family was assigned to a nearly two-year-old, 50 lb. Golden Labra doodle, Pixie, who was trained for peanut protection and service therapy by Angel Service Dogs, a non-profit organization in Colorado.

“Pixie is going to be a double agent,” said Shana. “For Lila she is going to help with peanuts and as a therapy service dog for Aimree.”

For now, there are particular sacrifices the family has to make for the safety of the children. The severity of Lila’s peanut allergy is life-threatening, so the limitations are very strict.

“This poor little girl can’t eat lunch in the lunch room at school because her allergy is so bad,” said x-ray/ultrasound technician, Desha Stiddom. “Her allergies are so severe that if you ate a peanut and kissed her on the cheek she would die.”

Out of the blue, vendors at a local softball park decided to sell peanuts at the same park Lila competes in softball. In an effort to keep them away from Lila, Shana bought a concession stand full of peanuts once to ensure a peanut-free environment while her daughter played.

While there is no way to rid the world of peanuts, Shana has explained to Lila that, “You have to stay away from them. You are allergic, not them.”

The emergency incidents that Lila has witnessed since she was two-years-old has stricken her with fear so badly that if she sees peanuts sealed in a bag, she will go into hysterics. Her only relief is from an Epinephrine pen, which mom and grandma Lila Pollock are always doubly armed with.

The middle sister, Hazeleah is three-years-old and has no complications. Still, she must adjust to her sisters’ needs.

Aimree is chronologically 20 months old, but mentally she is 8 months old due to a chromosomal translocation in her DNA. Of her 48 chromosomes, Aimree was born with an unusual arrangement of chromosomes.

“We are trying to raise money for them to have a service dog,” said Stiddom. “This family also has a disabled toddler who was born with only one hand and has many other health problems. This dog will also be trained to meet her needs to help her learn to stand and walk.”

Physical therapy has helped Aimree work with a prosthetic hand since she was four-months-old, but due to the rapid growth of children, the best prosthesis is too pricey to purchase for use during a short amount of time. Also through therapy, Aimree is learning to stand and balance.

Pixie will come in very handy as a service dog that can help by guiding her, lifting her up or catching her during a fall.

Several employees of the local hospital and the Family Community Education Club have shown and given support to the Vasquez family.

On top of being fixed in a unique situation, Shana has taken the role as a full-time, stay-at-home mom, while father Matt is stationed overseas in Korea for the U.S. Army and is not set to return for another 17 months.

Moving to Leapwood to be closer to family, Shana had local kinship to her late grandparents, William Arthur and Eva Plunk of Finger. Matt took his two-year leave in October and will only be allowed to return for a month during his scheduled stay, but that month is still to be determined.

“A plane ticket to get him back here is around $2,000,” Shana said. “We might get him back here for our Christmas present. We’ll see. That’s our goal.”

There is no communication with Matt in the field, so every phone call or any communication is respected and appreciated.

“My heart goes out to kids,” said sonographer Bethany Knipper. “I eat lunch with them in the cafeteria. Their mom was talking about this dog and how she was going to sell baked goods at Wal-Mart to try and save money. My thought was she would be there forever, and so I came up with some ideas.”

Pixie’s Paws to the Rescue: Luau for Love will take place Saturday from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. at the National Guard Armory in Selmer. There will be barbeque plates, chicken and dumplings, a cakewalk, a silent auction, a kiddie game corner, and much more. 

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