At four months old, Camila Flores began having seizures that violently shook her little body. Doctors in her native Honduras were not equipped to help her, and her mother, Chena Flores, was frightened about the effects the seizures would have on her daughter.
But Sam Bear, a 21-year-old Fox Point native, stepped up and raised thousands of dollars to help bring Camila to America to discover the cause of, and treat, the baby’s terrifying seizures.
From police protection to sister-hood
Bear met the Flores family on relief brigade trips through Marquette University. Chena was the head of security for the brigades Bear participated in, helping administer medical care to Hondurans in need.
But Bear and Flores became more than just friends during these trips, they grew to be family.
"My relationship with Sam, she is not 'like' my sister, she is MY SISTER, she is my best friend and another member of my family," Flores said. "I love her so much."
They grew to be so close that Bear began flying down separately from the brigades, staying with the Flores family, cooking, traveling and living day-to-day life with them.
When Camila was born, there wasn’t even a question if Bear would be the girl's godmother. And when Camila's seizures started—and Honduran doctors documented they couldn’t provide the medical care she needed—Bear rallied the troops to get her best friend and goddaughter to America.
"I felt awful," Bear said. "It's a heart-sinking feeling when you care so much about someone, and you don't know what's going on and you can't be right next to them to help them."
It was miserable, Bear said, only being able to offer solace via emails, Facebook posts and expensive, long-distance phone calls.
A call to action
Sam and her mother, sat down with doctors they know from Children's Hospital, where her mother works, and they pitched the idea to bring Flores and her baby to America.
Bear learned it would cost thousands to not only bring the pair here, but also cover the cost of the emergency visa and medical care. So they set a goal to raise $10,000.
She spent months calling doctors, spreading the word about Camila's situation via social media, and literally asking her friends for money. At 9:30 p.m. on March 18, Flores and Camila arrived in Milwaukee. To date, Bear has helped raise $6,535, about 65 percent of the goal.
On March 21, Camila had the EEG and MRI she could not have gotten with the broken equipment in Honduras.
As of Wednesday, Bear said the tests came back clear and it looks like these are fairly normal, infant seizures. Camila will be put on special medication for the next two years that will hopefully stop the seizures. But Chena and Camila’s journey isn’t over yet.
“We will have to find a way to get a follow-up in two years somehow,” Bear said. “If we hadn't brought her to the US, the Honduran doctor would have had her have a dangerous and unnecessary surgery. I am very pleased with the outcome. All of the fundraising and stress and effort has been totally worth it.”
The biggest lesson Bear said she’s learned is you really never know where your life is going to take you.
"I'm 21, I'm Jewish, I have no idea what a godmother does. Do I have to get baptized to be one of these?" she asked with a laugh. "But all I know is I have to care for this baby like my own life. And that's what I'm going to do."
Sam Bear has been chosen as the Huffington Posts's Greatest Person of the Day, which features stories of people across the nation who are confronting major issues and making a difference in their community.