Yesica Mercado Munoz was volunteering at the Child Life Zone on Monday as Damian played. The 16-year-old Simley High School junior visits weekly, but six years earlier she was a beneficiary when she was hospitalized with Type 1 diabetes.
Mercado Munoz recalled feeling frustrated -- even guilty that she might have caused her disease somehow -- when Smith entered her room.
"She brought in her iPad and we played Angry Birds," she said. "It was really cool back then."
Before long, they were talking freely about her diabetes and Mercado Munoz understood it for the first time.
"Stephanie made me feel like it wasn't my fault," she said.
As a result of the experience, Mercado Munoz said, she wants to go to medical school and become an endocrinologist. But on Monday, the task at hand was to be the audience to all of Damian's games and pleas for attention.
Pichner watched from afar and smiled. Her son will remain hospitalized until his blood sugar has stabilized. He struggles to eat enough, so he receives nourishment through a feeding tube to maintain his blood sugar levels.
But most of the time, he's an energetic little boy who likes to race cars.
"He's always just like that," she said, "you wouldn't even know" that he is sick.
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