A heartwarming story

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
A heartwarming story
Tue, 09-23-2003 - 10:01pm
This is one that also proves, BTW, that having significant amounts of milk in the first 24 hours is not *really* "necessary" to survive, in many cases. ;-)


'Miracle Children' turn 18

WILL WEISSERT; The Associated Press

MEXICO CITY - The "Miracle Children" are children no more.

The 14 newborns provided inspiration and hope to a devastated capital

when they were rescued after days buried in the rubble of Mexico City's

1985 earthquake. This week, they are turning 18, a happy denouement to a

tragic tale and perhaps a quieter sort of inspiration.

They bear wounds and scars and live in a very different country than the

one wracked by the 8.1-magnitude temblor on Sept. 19, 1985.

Jesus Antonio Castillo was four days old and lying in an incubator in

Juarez General Hospital awaiting a checkup for hepatitis when the quake

struck at 7:19 a.m. Nine days later, rescue workers had lost hope

finding survivors and were bringing bulldozers to clear the rubble.

"My father told them, 'Hold off until day 10. My baby is waiting to be

discovered,'" said Castillo as he celebrated his 18th birthday on


He was found wedged underneath a crumpled ceiling column where he had

spend the past 235 hours. Castillo was the last of 16 newborns rescued

from the remains of Juarez General and a second hospital leveled by the


Two of the newborns pulled from the rubble later died - one of them a

girl whose weak wailing led rescuers to Castillo, trapped just 8 inches

away, but too feeble to cry.

"I think about her sometimes. She died, but she saved me," Castillo said

during an interview in his kitchen, his wife and grandmother by his side

and his golden cocker spaniel peeking out from under a nearby bed.

Castillo married his high school sweetheart last year. He drives trucks

for a building materials company owned by his uncle, and he and his wife

live in a two-room cinderblock home.

Perched on the city's southernmost outskirts, theirs is a neighborhood

that's greener than most, dotted with small parks and vacant lots where

families grow undersized stalks of corn. Ask anyone around here: They

all know the tale of "God's child, little Jesus Antonio."

Castillo didn't open his eyes until nine days after he was rescued, and

he spent three months in intensive care before regaining enough strength

to go home.

"When we first went to see him, he was in very grave condition," said

Castillo's grandmother, 63-year-old Catalina Morales. "He couldn't see,

couldn't make a sound, almost couldn't breathe. His legs, his arms, all

of his little body was crushed."

The quake left Castillo with jagged but small scars from head to toe and

a golf-ball-size indentation in his back where falling debris punctured

one of his lungs.

He goes to the hospital for regular checkups once a year, but like

nearly all of the other surviving newborns, he escaped with almost no

long-term injuries. His lung healed so well that he became a star

forward on a local soccer team while in high school.

Donations poured in from across Mexico and around the world in the weeks

following the quake. Officials were able to establish a fund that should

cover the group's medical costs until each of the survivors turn 30.

Every Sept. 19, Castillo and most of his family go to Mass to celebrate

his survival. Until he was 10, he always went dressed as a different

saint and sat beside the doctor who was among a team of rescue workers

who pulled him to safety.

"It still scares me to think about this tiny child trapped there without

food or water," his grandmother said. "We weren't sure he'd survive, but

the doctor who found him said, 'God saved him, and I won't lose him.'"

The last time Castillo saw that doctor, Arturo Chavez, was when

President Vicente Fox invited him and the other surviving newborns to

the presidential residence last year.

Many here believe Fox's 2000 election as the first opposition candidate

ever to win Mexico's presidency was, in part, another of the quake's

unexpected results.

Disgusted by the government's tardy response to the disaster, civic and

neighborhood groups sprung up to take over rescue and clean-up work.

That brought about a new involvement in public life and politics among

masses of people used to simply tolerating decades of one-party rule,

and eventually fueled pressure for political reform.

Since then, building standards have been tightened and earthquake alarms


Claudia Isabel Rios, who also turned 18 this week, said at a news

conference Thursday that she has seen news footage of her rescue from

the other medical center destroyed in the quake, the Federico Gomez

Children's Hospital, dozens of times.

"You look at the destruction and you say 'I can't believe I survived,'"

said Rios, whose mother was in the same hospital wing but was killed

when the building collapsed. "It's really a miracle, but I consider

myself normal, just like all of us do."

Castillo, who has been telling journalists his story every Sept. 19

since he was old enough to speak, said he is "famous for sad reasons."

"I feel fortunate to have turned 18 and to be an adult," he said. "But I

feel fortunate to have every day of my life. I received an opportunity

that thousands of others didn't and I will never forget that."