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June 16th

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Going the Distance for Jenna: Robstown FIT Parents Team Up

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Vanessa Aguirre, family social worker at the Foster In Texas (FIT) Robstown office, says she loves to brag about the wonderful FIT parents she works with. Tracy Arnold is one such foster mom, and Vanessa told us the following story about Tracy, Mark, their foster child Jenna, and why they deserve a “Foster Parents of the Year Award.”

Tracy Arnold and Mark Skoruppa from George West, TX, have been foster parents since May 2011. Infant Jenna, now 19 months old, is their fifth foster child and was placed in their home on December 5, 2011. They were told that she was a healthy little girl … but she had a cough that mysteriously would not go away.

In early 2012, Tracy was beating a path back and forth taking Jenna to appointments and different doctors, trying to figure out what was wrong with her. At last, on Jan. 31, 2012, it was discovered through blood tests that Jenna had SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency disease).  On that day, Jenna was transferred to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, and they learned that she was going to need a bone marrow transplant. Transplant day was March 23, 2012, and on April 8, 2012 the transplant was declared a success. Jenny and Tracy remained in the hospital from February 6th until Jenna was discharged by all of her doctors on July 16th.

Before the family could take Jenna home, they had to make some serious preparations for her arrival. Because of her immune system, germs and infection can cause very serious complications to her health.  The home had to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to prevent germs, and the Robstown FIT office arranged for a cleaning service to do a thorough cleaning of the entire home. The family placed hand sanitizer dispensers by the front door and by the door in Jenna’s room.  When out in public, Jenna remains in her stroller covered in a “bubble-like” plastic shield to protect her from germs.

Once Jenna was home she continued to have medical complications; since being released in July she has been in and out of the hospital. Every complication with Jenna is serious and many times she has had to be admitted to Texas Children’s Hospital.  She gets her feedings through a feeding tube and medications via a PICC line.  Since Jenna’s release, Tracy has been taking her to doctor appointments in Houston once a week and therapy at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi twice a week.  Jenna receives speech therapy, feeding therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.  She is on 24-hour nursing care to assist with all of her medical needs.

SCID is a disorder that Jenna will have to deal with for the rest of her life, and could pass on to her children one day.  It is still unclear how normal of a life she can lead, and if she will ever be able to attend school or do the things healthy children do … only time will tell. Despite all the medical scares and complications that Jenna has had, the Arnold/Skoruppa family is currently pursuing adoption.  Additionally, Tracy Arnold has four children of her own!

This Saturday, March 23rd, marks the one-year anniversary of Jenna’s transplant. The Robstown FIT office is having an Easter party for foster families on that day, and will present her with a “lil Ms. Survivor” sash and tiara at the event.

Tracy has formed a Relay for Life team for Jenna, who will be the youngest survivor at the event, to be held in George West, TX, on April 26, 2013. The theme for her team is “Fight like a girl,” and Jenna’s t-shirt will say “I fought like a girl and won!” If you would like to make a donation, or join her team, please look for her page on the Relay for Life website; enter George West, TX, and look for “Team Jenna.”

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