My Chilean pen pals

The world is a big place and at the same time it’s so small.

When I read a story about the teen girl from Chile who begged to die because of her terminal illness – cystic fibrosis — I couldn’t get her plea out of my head. It’s a story made for the New York Daily News. The Mirror. It’s tabloid fodder.

But to me, a story like this is more than click bait. This little girl with the same disease at my son etches onto the web a YouTube plea spelling out in no uncertain terms she wants to “sleep forever.” She’s 14.

It’s polite to call CF “life-threatening.” But terms like “deadly,” “lethal” and “fatal” seem like more fitting, accurate descriptions. And I’m nothin’ if not accurate. Kids still die. Teens. Young adults. Others are living so much longer than we ever thought possible. Decades ago this disease killed babies; in the past, a child would never live through elementary school.

Valentina watched her 6-year-old brother Fredy die. She knows her fate; she’s always known it.

So her story — it gets in my head. It tugs at my heart. In this case, I couldn’t let it go.

I want to go to Chile. I want to talk to this girl.

Maybe I will.

So I ask a pal of mine at Associated Press if he knows anyone in Santiago.

I get an e-mail back right away.

Yes-this is your guy.

I write Santiago AP guy a note, expecting nothing in return. Journalists are busy.

Luis writes me back right away.

I send Luis a column I wrote about my son. I ask him for help contacting the family.

He gives me more than help. He offers to translate. He says if I make it to Chile, I can stay for free with him and his wife.

He is moved by my column, which almost makes him cry at work.

Sorry, I say. I know how you feel. “Never let ’em see you cry” (even though we do, indeed, cry, because life can be cruel and sad and we’re human).

Minutes later I’m in contact with the family.

The world is so big, and so small, all at once. One person, two people and I’ve got a line to this girl’s father. His name is Fredy, like his son.

Fredy’svalentina daughter’s name is Valentina. She loves soccer.

She changed her mind. It’s the first thing her dad tells me. There is no more suicide talk. She put her plea out there in the world. All she got back was love. Then she changed her mind.

Why? Why?

For now, I have Chilean pen pals via the wonders of Google Translator, but I don’t have answers.

Dad wants me to tell me about his little boy, Fredy.

And I’m going to find out why this little girl wanted to die. And why now she wants to live.

Stay tuned, thank you.


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