Gigi Carrera: Energetic, Confident and A Smile Never Forgotten

Gigi Carrera: Energetic, Confident and A Smile Never Forgotten

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Gigi was an energetic, confident, and bright girl. She was vibrant with a bold nature and had the incredible ability to connect and interact with people as if she knew them forever. When life would hand her lemons, Gigi had the power to take positive action, sweeten the situation, and make lemonade. She attended Kloefkorn Elementary with a private tutor and completed the third grade. She loved dancing, singing, cartwheeling, telling jokes of any kind and just being with people. Her zest for life was contagious and everyone who knew her would say she ruled the world and the amazing ability to inspire and motivate.

Gigi was born on August 30, 2006. Her parents; Leah Carrera and Robert Gross, older sister; Gabriella Carrera, beloved pets; Bennie and Calvin.

In January of 2014, Gianna was diagnosed with high grade anaplastic astrocytoma grade three. She also has a pre-existing condition of Neurofibromatosis (NF1), is a rare genetic disorder characterized by the development of multiple noncancerous (benign) tumors of nerves and skin.

On a Monday afternoon, Gigi had a seizure at home. She had been acting very strange that day. Later, her mother, Leah, received a phone call that Gigi was acting weird and that she should come home from school. Once she arrived, Gigi began to seize. They rushed her to the emergency room and after performing a CT scan, they were sent to Omaha, immediately, where they spent the night at Children’s Hospital.

The next day an EEG and an MRI was done.  Doctors discovered that she had three masses on the back of her brain on the right side. The first brain surgery was done in February 2014 which removed half of one of the three masses. They proceeded with the second surgery, knowing it would damage Gigi’s eyesight. Gigi lost the left half of her sight in both eyes, but overall, a successful surgery.

After that she didn’t need any help walking home from school, she was able to go back to school, and she was full of energy, just like the Gigi everyone knew. After her incision healed they then completed several weeks of radiation. Every three months scans were done.

In December of 2014, Gigi began to have trouble with her balance and her speech. “She was a little bit off on her dance so I thought it was kind of strange. I remembered over the weekend her speech was unclear, she sounded like she was mumbling,” Leah said.

Leah knew Gigi and that wasn’t Gigi.  She immediately called their oncology nurse, who told them to come in for scans right away. They performed scans that day and found more masses in the back of her brain. The doctors were unsure if it was cancer or radiation necrosis (which occurs when an area of dead tissue forms at the site of a brain tumor after radiation therapy), so Gigi was admitted.

“By the following day she was in a wheel chair. Our world was rocked,” Leah said.

Gigi could not have her port back in to receive chemotherapy because she had a cough. She also could not go under anesthesia because it was discovered she had a blood clot in her brain stem. Instead, Gigi received high dosages of steroids in an effort to mitigate the radiation necrosis. After a trial and error period with chemo, Gigi was transferred to UNMC to start a five day a week, two hour long hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) at the Hyperbaric Medicine Center in Omaha in hopes to regenerate new cells to replace the ones that were deteriorating in her cerebellum.

 “This is it. If this doesn’t work, this is it. If cancer comes back, there is nothing more they can do. They said, the areas are inoperable,” Leah said.

After a few days at home, Gigi headed back to Children’s Hospital Omaha or as Leah calls it on her Facebook page, “their home away from home” because of appetite and mood changes.  On June 19, she admitted for another full MRI.  Although the CT scan was normal, the MRI results showed the radiation necrosis has grown.  In addition, she was suffering a climbing fever and nausea.  Leah knew something else was wrong.  Gigi was in pain, no pain any child should have to suffer.  Her family had one goal:  keep her as comfortable as long as possible until they could get her home and make the decision on whether or not to put Gigi on hospice.

Leah writes, “This decision has been such a tough one, but Gigi is done. She just wants to go home to her Heavenly Father and is over being poked, scanned, and spending her childhood in and out of the hospital. We are not giving up, we are letting the process happen. Gigi has guided us from the beginning and unless you know her personally you would think we are crazy parents letting an 8 year old lead the way. She is wise beyond her years.”

After days of battling fevers, headaches and nausea, on June 24, Gigi could finally go home, which she did, with nothing by a smile.

The next day, almost immediately, Gigi’s body began shutting down.

“Gigi told me she was fighting for me because she loved me. I told her was okay to let go. She joked up to the very end when she pulled her oxygen out and said she was done and going to rest now,” Leah writes.

On Thursday, June 25th 2015, Gianna Carrera passed away, at home, surrounded by her loving family. Leah said, “She wanted a big party or a celebration of life. Everyone was to wear white, pink, or baby blue, per her instructions of course because black is simply too depressing. She wanted it to have lots of flowers, bright and cheery colors, and the service to not be sad.”

Gigi was no ordinary kid, she was a constant source of happiness missed by many every day.

Want to help kids like Gigi?  Here is how:

·         Vote for ANDY daily to help Team Jack win $100,000 for pediatric brain cancer research.

·         Become a Champion for a Cure for just $15.00 a month

·         Share this blog on your social media.


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