Rady Children’s patient returns home for holiday visit

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. -- Two Chula Vista parents saw their holiday wish come true Thursday when their 12-year-old daughter returned home.

“‘I can’t even put this into words, to be honest,” Janess Pillai said. “It’s something I didn’t expect to happen again.”

Pillai’s daughter, Meliena, contracted bacterial meningitis when she was only 5 weeks old.

“She had three strokes,” Pillai said. “Two on the left, one on the right. After she woke up, I just knew she wasn’t the same.”

Meliena has cerebral palsy, as well. For the past 18 months, she stayed at the Rady Children’s Hospital Center for Medically Fragile Children. That’s where Meliena will stay, since she needs 24-hour medical care.

But that changed for two hours Thursday when Meliena got to visit home.

“We connect patients with places they can no longer access on their own,” said Madeleine Baudoin with American Medical Response Ambulance. “We connect them with their families.”

The organization chooses one patient at Rady Children’s every Christmas and sends them with a medical team for a few hours. This year, they chose Meliena.

Meliena’s mom, dad and chihuahua, Minnie, were waiting at home to celebrate. For a short period of time, Meliena’s mom said it felt like it used to back when Meliena was living at home.

“It was very hard, but just to see her smile and just to see her happy and to keep her safe was my main goal.”

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