Volunteer Recognition

Alberto Masaquel




Ronald McDonald House

“It’s my turn to help”

October, 2009

By Gene Davis

Alberto Masaquel, one of our newest volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House Family Room, truly understands what the families he meets there are feeling. “I became a volunteer because I can relate to the families who are going through a rough time in their life. I know what they are experiencing,” says Alberto.

The Family Room, at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children, provides a caring, supportive environment where parents and families of seriously ill children can take respite from patient care while still being near the child if needed. It is staffed by volunteers like Alberto.

Alberto’s experience with such things began suddenly on April 25, 2008, when his 12–year–old daughter Alyssa, an Iolani student at the time, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a type of cancer that is found in the blood cells. For Alberto and his family, life was turned upside down. He and wife Cecilia had noticed that Alyssa appeared to be losing weight, and showing cold symptoms monthly. Then on a school morning in April, Alyssa had a hard time getting out of bed and a lump had appeared on the left side of her neck. Tests revealed that she had leukemia. “The doctors told us to check her into the hospital immediately,” recalls Alberto. “I didn’t completely understand what Leukemia was at the time.

Volunteer Masaquel
Alyssa and Alberto
That would soon change. Alyssa underwent three rounds of chemotherapy at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children and was later flown to City of Hope National Medical Center in California. The family stayed at the Pasadena Ronald McDonald House while she received more chemotherapy and bone marrow transplanted from her older brother Christopher.

That would soon change. Alyssa underwent three rounds of chemotherapy at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children and was later flown to City of Hope National Medical Center in California. The family stayed at the Pasadena Ronald McDonald House while she received more chemotherapy and bone marrow transplanted from her older brother Christopher.

It was a very difficult trip, and her condition became critical more than once. But she made it. Alyssa is back home in Hawaii now, and recovering steadily. But she returned deaf, “due to the toxicity of the antibiotics she had to take,“ Alberto explains. “She’s going to be checked to see if she is a candidate for a hearing device known as a cochlear implant. That might really help her.”

Current tests can detect no cancer cells in Alyssa at this time, but Dad’s cautious. “We look forward to two years from now when we can say she is officially in remission,” he says. Alberto, who is an employee at United Airlines, cites the Family Room as a major positive impact on him and his family. “Although everything was still so fresh for us, the Family Room volunteers took the time to help, and that’s what I am here to do now. Volunteering also keeps me grounded and my daughter loves that I am doing this. It’s my turn to help those who are dealing with what we had to.”

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