Mid-December, when most students at Metamora Township High School were getting ready for midterms, one sophomore was gearing up to a fight for his life.
Vidal Paulino was born with his heart on the right side of his chest. He underwent his first open heart surgery when he was just four days old, and another at age seven. Since then, doctors closely monitored Vidal’s heart. He went in for echocardiograms every six months.
After a routine echo in late November, the Paulinos were given some distressing news--doctors discovered fluid around Vidal’s heart, and it wasn’t functioning as it should.
After additional testing, it was clear that Vidal would need another open-heart surgery as soon as possible. The date was set for December 10.
But by that morning, Vidal’s heart function had worsened. What should have been a four to six-hour surgery to replace the aortic and pulmonary valves, turned into 18 hours. Because of the length of the surgery, Vidal’s other organs began to suffer; his kidney function declined, and fluid was building up in his lungs. On January 2, after he gained back enough strength, doctors performed an additional and precarious 10-hour surgery to combat clotting that was taking place in his heart.
Vidal remains in the hospital, and doctors are waiting on his organs to heal, especially his right lung, so they can proceed with the next stage - a heart transplant.
Vidal’s parents, Benny and Lucia, as well as his older brother, Ishmael, and baby sister, Melanie, keep a very upbeat attitude and a strong hold on their faith.
Longtime family friend Kristin Mervis, whose son is best friends with Vidal, said there have been many miracles already, even through the setbacks. It could be said that the first one happened even before his first surgery in December.
Vidal is very active, and as the manager for the MTHS girls’ basketball team, he was working out and running laps with the girls at the beginning of their season.
“As fast as his heart had deteriorated and as weak as it was, they were surprised nothing had happened to him,” said Kristin. “It was totally God, there’s just no other explanation.”
Through it all, Vidal and his family have received a tremendous amount of support from their Metamora/Germantown Hills community. At the end of December, the Mervis family set up a “Go Fund Me” page, with a starting goal of raising $10,000. Donations came pouring in, and Kristin said that amount was exceeded in 48 hours or less. Today, the total has surpassed $25,000.
MTHS has raised thousands of dollars for Vidal by selling t-shirts and bracelets. The girls’ basketball team also raked in almost $1,800 by selling raffle tickets, hosting a bake sale and putting on a halftime shoot-out at one of their home games earlier this month.
Kristin said she will be planning a future community fundraiser, but she doesn’t know the details yet. Until then, anyone interested in donating to Vidal’s cause is encouraged to visit the Go Fund Me page at https://gf.me/u/w9bf3j, or by buying a bracelet at the high school for $3 apiece.
All money will go to offset costs associated with Vidal’s hospital bills and the family’s travel expenses, as Vidal will need to be transferred to another hospital where his transplant will take place.
Not only has Vidal spent Christmas and New Year’s in the hospital, he also marked a milestone birthday there, too. On January 9 he turned 16. Students and faculty at MTHS signed a total of nine posters and a birthday banner for Vidal. A few of his closest friends, including Kristin’s son Josh, were able to deliver those to the hospital.
Doctors have kept Vidal sedated for much of his long hospital stay, but Kristin said his eyes lit up that night.
“Apparently after they left the day of his birthday, Lucia was telling us that Vidal was so wired. He was awake and responsive...almost like his three best friends had gotten him all pumped up,” Kristin exclaimed.
It’s no question, Vidal is missed by his friends, and his MTHS peers and teachers. Friday, January 24, will be deemed Vidal Day at MTHS and students are encouraged to wear their t-shirts to show support.
“He’s such a ray of sunshine...such a sweetheart,” said Kristin. “And he is a fighter, we tell him that all the time.”
Though Vidal’s fight is far from over, Kristin said everyone is optimistic.
“Even the doctor said in his last meeting ‘we are full speed ahead at this point, we’re not at any point where we’re quitting or giving up’,” stated Kristin. “They don’t see any of those signs, everything is on the move ahead.”
The Paulinos greatly appreciate the support they’ve received and continue to ask for prayers on Vidal’s CaringBridge site.