Three years ago we were blessed with the birth of my son, Marcel. His life is a gift and if you where to meet him you would have no idea that he has been through more than what most people will in a lifetime.

I was fully insured during my pregnancy and received quality pre-natal care, however, Marcel was born with a complicated heart condition that went undetected and would change our lives forever.

Within hours of his birth, a Cardiologist walked into my room and gave me a diagnosis of my son that was only hours old, Hypo-plastic Left Heart Syndrome, at that moment I felt he was talking to me in another language that I knew nothing about but knew I had to learn immediately.

Doctors then  told me he needed an emergency heart operation and I had to decide where I wanted to send my newborn baby and home was not an option. To my surprise  the doctors informed me that the operation he needed could not be done in the Rio Grande Valley, that those services where not available here because of the lack of specialists.

I had no idea what was going to happen and having to leave home only instilled more fear as to whether this meant that my baby was going to live and come home as I planned. Within 24 hours of being taken from my womb, Marcel was swept away from my arms and transported to Houston, Texas, where he could receive the specialty and quality care he needed to survive. I on the other hand, having had a cesarean section was not cleared to travel with him.

My mother, within minutes of Marcel getting on a plane made the decision she would fly with him and stay by his side until I was able to arrive in Houston, leaving my older son behind to be taken care of by different family members. Marcel had his first open heart surgery at 13 days old and later had to have an emergency operation to implant a pacemaker of which I was unable to be there for.

Marcel is now three years old and has gone through three open heart surgeries and we have now had to consider Houston as our second home. Marcel will always need this specialty care and because of this we where required to travel once a month to Houston not having the resources for lodging and transportation. It is clear that services in the Rio Grande Valley are limited and necessity for specialty care has increased more and more everyday.

I, Kristen Villegas want to share our story with you, my Hidalgo County family. I work full time and I have health insurance of which I am grateful for because I now know the true meaning of needing these benefits. We often don’t pay much attention to something until it hits close to home which is why I share my story with you today, because I’ve seen it first hand, I’ve seen the need, the struggle, the six hour drive, the sleeping on a couch in a hospital because you have no where to go, getting through days on pop-tarts and coffee because you don’t know your way to the nearest restaurant, and having to hear your son sing Happy Birthday to you over the phone because it just so happens the unexpected open heart surgery happened on this day.

I ask from you to take a look around and see the need as I do, don’t wait until it hits home and be a part of the change. Proposition 1 is on the ballot during the November 8th election. I urge you to vote FOR Proposition 1 so that Hidalgo County can finally have a healthcare district. The funds will be used to support our new UTRGV medical school which will bring great talent to Hidalgo County and create more quality healthcare for our community as well as bring more specialty doctors to the region so that hardworking residents will not have to split their families apart, travel hundreds of miles, and use thousands of dollars we don’t have just because we do not have the specialists we need.

The cost of the investment is minimal and our families deserve the same quality of care delivered in other regions like Houston, San Antonio or Corpus Christi. We need healthcare growth and for that we need community support. A Hidalgo County Healthcare District will also expand care to low-income and uninsured residents, help fund community clinics, invest in better mental and behavioral health, fight diabetes with new research and better treatments, all while helping create thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars in new economic activity for our community.

Let’s grow together and create change, VOTE FOR Proposition 1.