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Kindergartner honored for saving mom during seizure

She called her grandparents and slowly fed her mother Reese's peanut-butter filled Easter eggs saying "A bite for me, a bite for you, Mama;" the sugar pulled her out of a diabetic seizure

By Robert Nott
The Santa Fe New Mexican

SANTA FE, N.M. — Darlene Lopez has a faint memory of her 5-year-old daughter, Gracie Hawkins, slowly feeding her pieces of Reese’s peanut-butter filled Easter eggs while saying, “A bite for me, a bite for you, Mama.”

The sugar intake pulled Lopez out of a seizure. Lopez, a diabetic, had gone to sleep the night before and didn’t wake up the next morning when Gracie was ready for breakfast. Fortunately, the Agua Fría Elementary School kindergartner acted swiftly to save her mother’s life.

It was April 27, the Sunday after Easter, and the remaining holiday candy in the house came in handy. Gracie also called her grandparents, Ernie and Linda Lopez. They were both a mess.

“I was freaking out, but she had it under control,” Ernie Lopez said of Gracie. “She kept saying, ‘It’s gonna be OK, Grandpa. Mama will just go to the hospital and get a shot, and she’ll be OK.’ ”

Which is exactly what happened. Darlene Lopez said she was back home by noon.

Gracie apparently attempted to call 911 without success, so grandpa Ernie picked up the phone and got the paramedics to the house.

On Wednesday, the Agua Fría school community gathered with district officials and a half-dozen Santa Fe firefighters to honor Gracie with a Roadrunner Hero Award for her decisive action. Gracie, who was clad in a colorful skirt and animal ears (the school was having a “Let’s Go To the Circus” concert in the gym), accepted the award without saying a word.

“Gracie is so strong and so silent,” said her teacher, Michelle Lord. “You have to seek out her strength, and then you see how strong she is.”

Both Lord and Darlene Lopez said Gracie is an exceptional student, already ahead of the game when it comes to reading proficiently. Her attendance is excellent, Lord said, because her mother makes sure she gets to school. That’s not an easy task, given what Lopez is facing. She needs both a kidney and pancreas. She almost got them this week after receiving a call from the Mayo Clinic in Arizona regarding a donation of both organs.

On Monday, Gracie and her mom drove straight to Arizona in preparation for the surgery, only to discover that the pancreas had swelled and was unusable. They drove home in disappointed silence.

But Darlene Lopez is confident she will get her transplants sometime this summer, which means she can then return to nursing school and earn her degree. Working as a nurse, she said, will allow her “to give back, because I know what it’s like to be on the other end of care.”

She is a single mother and can’t work now. But she makes sure Gracie does her homework and gets to school. “I want to watch her grow up, get married, have kids and a career. And graduate,” she said.

All the hero hoopla didn’t seem to impress Gracie, who didn’t want to talk to the press. Or her school chums. Or even the firefighters. She was focused on playing the xylophone for the school concert, which started right after the celebration.

Her attitude didn’t surprise Lord: “Gracie is a quiet little star who doesn’t want to shine on her own but wants to be part of the constellation.”

Darlene Lopez has a U.S. Bank donation account set up to help her raise funds for her trip and stay in Arizona, once a healthy kidney and pancreas arrive.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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