Zimbal Family Turns Heartbreak to Hope

In August 2019, Gabby Sariñana was a happy, active 2-year-old. Her family and friends describe Gabby as fearless, gregarious, determined and zealous. One day her mom, Valerie, noticed a lump during a routine diaper change. After several days spent at Children’s Hospital in Wisconsin, Valerie and her husband Antonio learned what they were battling: an Ewing sarcoma-family tumor. There was a long road ahead and this is where Gabby’s fearlessness and determination would be most beneficial.

Gabby had to undergo multiple surgeries and 14 rounds of intense, high-dose chemotherapy, which would begin immediately. While other toddlers were pedaling tricycles around their neighborhoods, Gabby would be running around the halls of the hospital for the next year of her life. When patients with a medical port spike a fever, they have to be rushed to the Emergency Room to be assessed and rule out infections. Gabby’s temperature reached a fever between EVERY round of chemotherapy, which meant she had to be rushed to the E.R. and then admitted to the hospital to be monitored. That meant more than 14 additional, frantic hauls to CHW for Gabby and her parents.

It was a trying time for the family but they persevered. Today Gabby is officially in remission from Ewing and happily attending preschool with her peers. She is a tiny force of positivity in her family and community. Gabby’s family has been searching for answers. They are hopeful that someday children like Gabby won’t be subjected to decades-old chemotherapy drugs. These drugs are so harsh that they nearly end children’s lives in an effort to save them. Her family hopes that someday there will be maintenance therapies for children with these aggressive cancers that are so prone to relapse.

Their search for answers lead them to Dr. Charles Keller and cc-TDI, where they found a team who is hungry for those same answers. They share a passion for altering the course of treatment for kids like Gabby. And cc-TDI is currently in the midst of a project that could potentially do just that. They are exploring a gene that is involved in the development of many sarcomas. To advance this project to the next step, the lab at cc-TDI was missing a crucial piece of equipment. An affinity-testing instrument known as a Surface Plasmon Resonance machine. In short, this instrument will ensure that the drug being tested will bind its protein. This step means everything: the tighter the binding, the better the drug! So Gabby’s grandparents, Bob and Linda Zimbal, (who herself is a cancer survivor) decided to step up to the plate to donate the $45,000 needed to purchase this equipment. The generosity of Gabby’s family will impact children everywhere who battle Ewing and other aggressive sarcomas.

There is such a need for improvement in this area and the Zimbal and Sariñana families are addressing that need head-on. We can never repay this generosity but it will pay dividends in lives affected. Thank you!

The drug engine will be up and running in the lab in the near future and we will be sure and update Gabby’s family as well as our community with the progress being made.

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