ocr logo Community


The call came early, waking a dozing Ana. "Be outside your house in one hour. I have a surprise," Richard Chavez said and hung up.

A LITTLE PRAYER: Ana's first public outing is to St. Anthony Claret Catholic Church on La Palma Avenue. Grateful to be alive, she offers God an emotional thank you. Some parishioners recognize Ana from past services while others know her only from the news.


Ana quickly rounded up the boys. She called to Roberto, who was working in the yard. Dressed and curious, they waited in their doorway promptly at 9 a.m.

A small moving van pulled up. Chavez and several other firefighters hopped out, flinging open the doors with a flourish -- it was filled with furniture, dishes, toys, blankets, lamps and a dozen other household goods.

Orange County had not forgotten the Garcia Serranos.

In those early, terrifying days at Anaheim Memorial Medical Center, Ana, Roberto and their children had been only vaguely aware of the mounting public sympathy. They had caught the occasional Spanish newscast about their struggle, exclaimed over the deluge of cards and gifts, and were thankful for the fund that added to Roberto's $600-a-month disability checks. But they did not realize how their plight had touched people until they emerged from Ana's hospital room to face a bouquet of media microphones.

Recalling how volunteers had driven Roberto and the boys to the hospital, how people had given Fidel, Daniel and Tito toys, and the way Anaheim Medical and Tustin Rehab had donated all their services, Ana and Roberto had swallowed their shyness and thanked everyone.

WARM WELCOME: Fidel's fourth-grade teacher Madeline Brand at Lincoln Elementary in Anaheim greets Ana on her first outing to school after her surgery.

Now, watching the grinning firefighters carry in the donations, Ana knew there was still one other she needed to thank.

On a sultry July Sunday, she dressed in gauzy peach. A towel discreetly covered her lap. She ran a brush through her hair, cut shoulder length for better manageability, and urged Fidel and Daniel to hurry.

Her eyes strayed anxiously to the clock as she buttoned Tito's shirt. In a moment, her sister-in-law, Juana Sanchez, would arrive to accompany Ana and her sons to morning Mass.

It would be Ana's first appearance at church since contracting the flesh-eating bacteria that had consumed her legs.

The week before, Roberto had bought her a used electric cart that could zip along streets and sidewalks. Ana liked the independence it gave her. She would have made this trip today on her own, but she had to cross several streets and was still somewhat unsure of herself on it.

So while Roberto ran errands on his bike, Ana, Sanchez and their children traveled the five blocks to St. Anthony Claret Catholic Church on La Palma Avenue. Fidel, Daniel and their cousin scampered ahead. Tito rested comfortably in his favorite new spot on the floor of Ana's cart. Sanchez guarded the rear.

The church parking lot was thick with people and cars. Ana maneuvered her way to a wheelchair ramp. Several parishioners hailed her, but she did not stop. She was on a mission.

Once inside, Sanchez took the older boys to a rear pew. Ana and Tito settled in the wheelchair section near the altar.

A guitarist strummed a familiar hymn. Ana's lips started to tremble. She looked up at the large crucifix hanging behind the altar and at the Virgen de Guadalupe statue standing to one side. Softly, she wept.

At last, she could say aloud what she had carried in her heart for so long.

"Gracias, gracias, gracias."

#1 newspaper in Orange County, California
The Orange County Register
Copyright 1998 The Orange County Register
Please send comments to ocregister@link.freedom.com