AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals “When we first got Abi, we were told we would fix a heart and break our own,” she said. “… This incredible journey that we have taken will live on in our hearts forever.” The family volunteered to host Abi through Santa Clarita-based Healing the Children and The Two Marias International Children’s Fund, named for the twin Guatemalan girls who were conjoined at the head and surgically separated at UCLA in 2002. The Bachelises had a personal interest in getting involved. Their daughter, Sarah, now 13, was born with five heart defects and has undergone four successful surgeries at UCLA. Dr. Juan Alejos, associate professor of pediatric cardiology at Mattel, praised Abi and the family, calling them remarkable. “The Bachelises have done an extraordinary job getting her through very difficult surgeries,” he said. AGOURA HILLS – The Bachelis family took in a toddler named Abi so she could mend her heart, and now that they’re in love with her, she’s about to break theirs. Abi Vega Cruz came to Southern California from Quito, Ecuador, seven months ago to have a life-threatening heart defect repaired. The 2-year-old was born with a heart muscle so big it couldn’t pump properly. She underwent two surgeries at UCLA’s Mattel Children’s Hospital, paid for through a fund supported by actor Mel Gibson. Now, she’s a ball of energy who loves dressing up as a University of California, Los Angeles, cheerleader and watching her foster brother’s basketball games. She has recovered so well, in fact, that she will return home to Quito on Wednesday, just in time for Christmas. And while it’s been uplifting to watch her recover, it will be heart-rending to see her leave, said her volunteer foster mother, Jamie Bachelis. Abi arrived in Agoura Hills on May 5, a shy and sick 18-month-old. She hardly made a peep, Jamie Bachelis said. “I couldn’t tell if she didn’t feel well or if it was because she didn’t know anyone here,” she said. Eight days later, she was on an operating table, a surgeon’s blade sectioning out pieces of her heart and repairing a hole in it, a condition called a ventricle septal defect. A month later, a doctor implanted a pacemaker. As if that wasn’t enough, Abi also suffers from hip dysplasia and has been wearing a brace for five months to help improve her condition. After leaving the hospital, she was practically a brand new girl, singing and dancing, speaking both her native Spanish and a little English, and watching sports, Jamie Bachelis said. “Since the surgery, she has become a very happy child,” she said. “… I wish we didn’t have to give her up.” Abi arrived for her surgery thanks to the Two Marias fund, established in October 2004. Gibson donated $5 million to provide the hospital with reimbursement for medical care to children from foreign countries unable to afford care at home. To date, 27 children have come to UCLA through Two Marias. The fund pays for a patient’s medical expenses, but Healing the Children and the foster families take care of travel and day-to-day expenses, which average about $2,500 per child. To qualify for treatment, children must have serious medical conditions for which they are unable to be treated in their own countries. At UCLA, cardiology, neurology, optometry and cancer specialists have helped children from 1 to 18 years old. Gibson also donated another $5 million to Cedars Sinai Medical Center and has funded trips by medical teams to treat children in their own countries, said Chris Embleton, director and founder of Healing the Children. “He’s really saved the lives of hundreds of kids,” said Embleton, who founded the group 28 years ago after her adopted daughter died from an infection that started in her eye. The Bachelises helped Abi through some of the most difficult times she will ever face. “For Abi, it was really touch-and-go for a while,” she said. “Her heart problems were very complicated. Her foster family adores that child. Because of the love and care they gave to her, we now have a precious girl who has a bright future.” Eric Leach, (805) 583-7602 [email protected] HOW TO HELP To contribute to the Two Marias International Children’s Fund or become a foster family, call Healing the Children at (661) 288-1957. For information about the Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA, go to www.mattel.ucla.edu. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!