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A ‘Hulk’ of a Boy Smashes Expectations

The Hulk has unlimited strength, superhuman speed and can even breathe in space. Mateo Guerrero has none of those superpowers, but even the Hulk would be hard pressed to endure what his number one fan from Springfield, Ore., has gone through. In 2008, Kayla Guerrero, Mateo’s mom, had a typical pregnancy and Mateo had a normal birth. Several hours later, however, Mateo would not eat and began vomiting. He showed a distended stomach – a sign of malnutrition – and after ruling out respiratory distress, nurses tried several things to get him to eat.

After several tests, doctors discovered his small intestines were so swollen it could burst at any second. Kayla and Carlos, Mateo’s father, were told to kiss Mateo goodbye because he might not live through the 10-minute trip via neonatal ambulance. He was transferred to PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center, a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, in Eugene, Ore.


Not long after arriving at Sacred Heart Mateo was diagnosed with Hirschsprung’s disease. “It’s a very rare intestinal disorder. Most people have never heard of it. Even some doctors and nurses still haven’t,” Kayla said. “It’s a lack of nerve cells in the intestines that causes it not to function properly.”Mateo’s entire colon, and about half of his small bowel, were removed. A gastrostomy tube delivered drops of formula every few minutes so his stomach could absorb the nutrients. He was only given a 30% chance to live. Mateo would spend 71 days in the neonatal intensive care unit.

“We celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas in the NICU,” Kayla said. “It was very heartbreaking and very stressful. At first, I was very scared and didn’t think I could handle taking care of him. The nurses in the NICU were so patient and so amazing. I give them credit for being able to do what I do today in taking care of Mateo.”

Today, he visits a pediatrician, pediatric surgeon, gastroenterologist, dietitian and a urologist between Sacred Heart and Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland.“If you see Mateo today, you would think I was talking about a different kid,” Kayla said. Mateo, now 8 years old, is a typical third grader and big brother. He loves to ride his bike, play outside and is an avid fan of Marvel Universe, especially the Hulk. While doctors expected him to be undersized, Mateo is above average in height and weight. He is an excellent student (particularly in math) and competes in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.I consider myself blessed to have the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital here where our family and friends are close,” Kayla said. “We would have ended up traveling two hours to get to the next closet hospital.”

Not only is Kayla the mother of Mateo ­– Oregon’s 2012 CMN Hospitals Champion ­– she’s been a long supporter of Credit Union’s for Kids (CU4Kids) as an employee and member of Oregon Community Credit Union. “CU4Kids is amazing,” she said. “By being involved and making donations, people are making a difference in the local community and saving children’s lives. Without that help, my son wouldn’t be here today. When you donate, you are investing in a child’s life.” If nothing else, Mateo’s heart and willpower is equal to the Hulk. And thanks to the care of his local hospitals, he continues to grow stronger and leap higher. As for his thunderclap, he’s still working on it.

UPDATE: Mateo is one of the 2018 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champions and will be actively involved in Children’s Hospitals Week, March 5-11.