Zaira Segoviano sits in a hospital examination room, waiting for a checkup that is anything but routine. Her 16-year-old twin sister, Yessenia, is in the next room, too shy to come out to chat.
"She wants to see what's going on, but she doesn't want to talk," their mother, Veronica, says as Yessenia pops her head through the side of the door.
Actually, Veronica is their older sister by 20 years. She has raised the girls since they were 2 months old, when their birth mother died of breast cancer. They know Veronica only as Mom.
The teens are at the Children's Health Center of the UCLA Medical Plaza for their once-a-month visit. Suffering from kidney failure, Zaira and Yessenia travel from Hawthorne to the hospital to have their blood tested and treatments monitored.
Zaira's kidneys lost function last summer while on a family vacation. After three seizure attacks, doctors started her on emergency hemodialysis, which required that a catheter be put in her neck to facilitate filtering harmful wastes from her blood. Yessenia hadn't exhibited any symptoms, but being Zaira's identical twin, she was tested and also came up positive for kidney failure.
Both now need constant treatment to survive and are on home peritoneal dialysis, hooked up to a blood-filtering machine 10 hours a night.
"During the weekdays and weekends we can't stay out," Zaira says. "We can only stay out until 8 because we have to be at home for the PD treatments. Now we can't go anywhere without medicine and the dialysis machine at home."
Yet for a week this summer, they will be able to go to Teen Camp in Mammoth Lakes. Sponsored by the National Kidney Foundation of Southern California, the camp is a medical facility that gives about 70 kidney patients, ages 14-21, the chance to engage in recreational activities while providing access to 24-hour-a-day medical care.
It will give them the opportunity to "see that they are not alone in their problems," Veronica says. "I want them to be comfortable and not feel sick."
The camp also fosters independence, says Barbara Gails, a board member of the National Kidney Foundation of Southern California.
"Although we're providing everything, they have to do it themselves, do their own care and learn their medications," Gails says. "It's a chance for them to be treated like normal kids."
With $1.8 million raised last year by the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign, about 8,000 children will go to camp in Southern California this summer.
The Summer Camp Campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a McCormick Foundation fund, which matches all donations at 50 cents on the dollar.
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