Nyemachi's name says it all. Pronounced "nee-AH-mah-CHEE," it means, "You never know what's going to happen to you tomorrow" in Ikwerre, her parents' native Nigerian tongue.
While 4 1/2 months' pregnant with twins, Nyemachi's mother, Betty, got an infection that necessitated an emergency Caesarian section. The babies, a boy and a girl, weighed barely a pound each and were placed in incubators for almost eight months. The boy didn't survive. But Nyemachi hung on.
"All the doctors said she would never make it," says Betty. "We bought everything for her burial ... and here she is today."
Part of Nyemachi's skull did not form properly, so a shunt was placed in it, requiring long-term medication. Apart from that, she was a healthy young girl, who is now 15.
In 1999, the father took the family to Nigeria for the summer. While Betty and her four kids were visiting relatives there, however, he took everything they had and left the country.
"He took my green card, my children's passports, all the clothes, and left," says Betty, her voice shaking. "No medicine for her. She got sick. I took her to different hospitals, they could not help her. So she got blind."
Stranded, abandoned, Betty and the kids were helped by relatives to take a train trip to Lagos, to the American embassy. Betty says an embassy official forced the father, who had returned to their home in California, to send back the family's documents.
Betty and the kids eventually made it home and soon after she divorced the kids' father. But doctors at several hospitals couldn't determine the cause of Nyemachi's blindness, even with exploratory surgery. Then, with no apparent explanation, her sight suddenly returned, says Betty.
Five years later, Nyemachi is a hard-working student who especially likes math. She enjoys riding her bike and hopes to become a musician like Jimi Hendrix. She looks forward to her first summer camp this year and especially roasting marshmallows. She'll go to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul's Circle V Ranch in the Los Padres National Forest, courtesy of The Times Summer Camp Campaign.
Linda Williams, program director of Friends in Deed, a Pasadena food bank, says, "I thought this kid really deserved to have a good summer."
"I really care about my dad very much," says Nyemachi. "It's very hard. I don't forgive him for what he did. It still hurts me today."
She hasn't seen her father this year.
When asked what makes her happy, Nyemachi says, "That I'm still alive today."
About 11,000 children will go to camp this summer, thanks to $1.6 million raised last year.
The annual fundraising campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund of the McCormick Tribune Foundation, which this year will match the first $1.1 million in contributions at 50 cents on the dollar.
Donations are tax-deductible. For more information, call (213) 237-5771. To make donations by credit card, go to latimes.com/summercamp.
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Unless requested otherwise, gifts of $50 or more will be acknowledged in The Times.