INDIO — Health care is not defined by multiple stories of ornate bricks and mortar. It is defined by the quality of care that is delivered within the confines of those walls to those who depend on it to live a quality life.
Three-and-a-half-year-old Matthew Cross Castleberry is one of those people.
While still nestled in his mother’s womb, his mother Angela Castleberry, who was pregnant with twins, would make the three-hour trek to Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital for specialty care to save her child’s life.
Little did she know at the time that she would make that drive for the next four years — a drive she continues to make to this day.
“I’ll never forget the day when a little birdie told me that Loma Linda was considering building a clinic in Indio,” Castleberry, 37, told Uken Report. “It was just a thought, just an idea at the time, but I nearly cried.”
On Monday, that idea will become reality as Loma Linda University Children’s Health — Indio opens its door offering pediatric primary services. Children will be able to receive specialized pediatric care, in an outpatient setting, for conditions that are prevalent in the Coachella Valley.
The spectrum of care will expand over time to include crucial pediatric specialty services like pulmonology, neurology, cardiology and endocrinology to name a few.
When those services are offered, the Castleberry family, which includes six children, will have a 5-minute drive to some of the best pediatric care in the nation.
“I just feel such relief and comfort,” Castleberry said. “There will be staff, nurses and doctors who know my son’s history and how I am as a mom. Knowing that Loma Linda will be close with specialty care and the special supplies he needs is such a gift. And, it’s not just for me, it’s for other families, too.”
Minutes before the official ribbon was cut on Sunday, Castleberry said, “Loma Linda gave my babies hope.”
She called the moment on Sunday, ‘joy, pure joy.”
With more than 130,000 children living in the desert region, Loma Linda University Children’s Health – Indio is a welcome addition to the Coachella Valley’s health care landscape, she said.
Castleberry said she recently needed a gastrostomy tube, also called a G-tube, for her son. It is a tube inserted through the abdomen that delivers nutrition directly to the stomach. It’s one of the ways doctors can make sure kids with trouble eating get the fluid and calories they need to grow. There are special sizes for children.
“I’ve been to other hospitals in the Coachella Valley, but they don’t have the right supplies,” she said. “I will say – again – what a relief it is to know that Loma Linda will be here, they will have my son’s history at their fingertips. I am so incredibly blessed.”
You need only know where she’s been in this journey to empathize with her sentiments of relief.
About four weeks into her pregnancy, Castleberry and her husband, Matthew Sr., learned that one of her twins, Matthew, had been diagnosed with Posterior Urethral Valves, which is the tube that drains urine from the bladder to the outside of the body for elimination. This was causing his bladder to fill with urine damaging both his bladder and kidneys. During the 23rd week, Matthew had little to almost no amniotic fluid and doctors advised Angelina and her husband little Matthew was not going to survive.
After two unsuccessful procedures attempting to drain Matthew’s bladder, doctors did not believe any procedure would help because of the risk to his healthy twin sister.
At 31 weeks, an emergency Caesarean section, also known as C-section, was preformed due to placental abruption. Miracle twins, Matthew Cross and Callia Faith Castleberry were born on July 1, 2014.
Matthew was born first, weighing 5 pounds, 2 ounces and his sister Callia weighed three pounds, 12 ounces. Callia was discharged from the NICU at 8 weeks old. Matthew, on the other hand, still had a long road ahead. He was born with pulmonary hypertension, bleeding in his brain, fluid in his brain, kidney failure, and collapsed lungs. The Castleberry’s were even told that Matthew would not survive, and doctors put together a care plan for him.
At 2 weeks old a catheter was placed into Matthew’s abdomen in preparation for dialysis. He has had approximately 14 surgeries since birth and has fought through complications with dialysis, which is thankfully now working. The goal was for Matthew to weigh 22 pounds so he could be placed on a kidney transplant list.
Castleberry resigned from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department due to her son requiring around-the-clock medical care. Deputy Alicia Lopez had remained friends with Castleberry and had been keeping up with Matthew’s progress. Knowing that little Matthew now needed a kidney transplant, Deputy Lopez, felt compelled to help. Without telling the Castleberrys, Lopez was tested and found out that she was a match.
The transplant was a success.
All of his young life, his parents, Matthew and Angelina, have ferried their son to Loma Linda. While he was on dialysis they made the trip four times each week.
They still make the trip, but it is now once a week.
“Every day is good day,” she said with a sincere lilt in her voice. “For a long time it was difficult and sad, but when switch your thinking, there has been so much goodness out of it. It’s a different life.”
(Editor’s note: Pictured above Callia Faith and Matthew Cross Castleberry, twins born at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital)