Pasco family seeks help as their toddler fights rare brain tumor

Tri-City Herald staff writerFebruary 9, 2014 

A Pasco boy will turn 2 in March, but he's already spent more time in hospitals than any child should have to.

Ethan Lolo Sarabia was diagnosed with a rare tumor in his brain when he was just 4 months old and has since gone through nine surgeries and seven months of chemotherapy, traveling as far as Philadelphia.

But his parents say they need help getting him to more treatments later this month at Seattle Children's Hospital.

Fernando Ramirez and Elizabeth Sarabia rely on a 1998 Buick LeSabre with 230,000 miles and a missing side-view mirror to get around. They worry about crossing mountain passes in the car, which they bought for $400 seven months ago.

Sarabia can't work because she suffers from back problems and takes care of Ethan, while Ramirez is helping his mother, who has cancer, in Kennewick, they said. Ramirez has worked in landscaping but says he can't do that anymore because of a benign tumor on his back.

The family has received some help, a Les Schwab tire store donated new tires for the car, while Seattle Children's has helped pay for car insurance.

"That's a big help because we don't have a dime to our name," Ramirez said.

They still worry about the safety of the car, but know Ethan needs help and feel that Seattle is the best place to get it.

Ethan's tumor was removed at Seattle Children's in August, but doctors are still concerned about his progress. He has not developed typical functions of children his age, like crawling or walking. And he can't put pressure on his legs.

"He just started to roll a month ago," Sarabia said. "He sees other kids his age doing things, and it's discouraging for him."

And doctors want to see him TuesdayFeb. 11 because he may be developing a lazy eye.

"We're told if it doesn't go back to normal, he's gonna have surgery on it too," Ramirez said.

And doctors say there is still a risk of the tumor growing back, his parents said.

Seattle Children's officials say there are options for low-income families like Ethan's.

Children like Ethan who are on Washington Medicaid are eligible for People for People, an alternative transportation program, said Elizabeth "Tizzy" Bennett, Seattle Children's guest services director.

People for People typically picks up the patient and a caregiver in a van to bring them to and from the hospital.

"Guest services would be happy to talk with the family about transportation options and how they can work with People for People," Bennett said.

But the parents would like to be able to go to Ethan's appointments together, and People for People can only take one of them. Sarabia said she wants to go with him, but she can't go alone because her back problems keep her from being able to carry the boy.

The family is seeking either a mechanic to donate time to repair the Buick or someone to donate an extra car, Sarabia said.

Ethan smiles when held by his parents. They say the treatment has helped him overcome the many seizures he used to have each hour.

It also allowed him to have his picture taken with idols like Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez, who visited Seattle Children's while he was there, Ramirez said.

Each day with Ethan has been a blessing, his mother said.

"It's a miracle that our son did survive, but you never know what's going to happen," Sarabia said.

The Ethan Lolo Sarabia Donation Account has been set up at any U.S. Bank branch. The family asks for prayers to be sent to lizsarabia15@gmail.com.

"It's been a long run," Ramirez said. "We've had success. We can't stop the journey 'cause if we stop -- oh my god."

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