BY SUSANNA GROVES | STAFF WRITER
Felicia and Gaspar Hinojosa discussed having children three years into their marriage.
The McAllen couple knew they wanted a family, but they wanted to further their careers first. Felicia is an educator, and Gaspar is a medical staff administrator.
Little did they know that those plans were about to change when they became instant parents after adopting three little girls, who happened to be Felicia’s nieces.
Today will be Felicia’s first official Mother’s Day.
The couple’s road to becoming a family began on a cold February morning in 2017. According to Felicia, the girls’ biological mother had allegedly left the youngest daughter, Autumn, alone and unattended in her crib.
At the time, Autumn weighed just six pounds, and had been diagnosed at birth with corpus callosum, where the space inside the protective bone of the skull and the brain tissue is significant, and, additionally, Autumn was on oxygen 24 hours a day.
Felicia and Gaspar, at the urging of Child Protective Services, would soon take in Autumn and her two older sisters: Elizabeth, who’s now 10 years old, and Ellie, now 7, who decidedly told them she wanted to change her name from “Cassidy” to “Ellie,” “a ‘cuter name’ she saw on T.V.,” Felicia said.
The McAllen mom didn’t want to separate the children. She wanted to keep the siblings together.
The Hinojosas know they were right to put their career goals on hold and remember that decision every time they look at their daughters.
“I’d always thought about having a sort of ‘school-orphanage’ where kids could live and get an education at the same place,” Felicia remembers, “but then, all ‘this’ happened, and we’ve refocused our passion into our family.”
Autumn, who is wheelchair-bound and now diagnosed with scoliosis, is unable to walk on her own, and non-vocal.
The Hinojosas finalized the adoption of their three daughters on Aug. 7, 2018, after the biological mother legally surrendered all parental claims.
“The intensive licensing and medical record keeping required by the state, and our certification at the ‘intense level’ allows for the girls to get Medicaid benefits,” Felicia declares, “otherwise, we’d never be able to afford all the medical care, especially for Autumn, on our own.”
Felicia is a sixth-grade teacher at Homer J. Morris Middle School in McAllen, and Gaspar is employed as a medical staff administrator at Doctors Hospital Renaissance in Edinburg.
Gaspar remembered a particularly harrowing night shortly after the three girls had moved into their three-bedroom home in McAllen.
“It was on a Sunday night, and Autumn’s (heart) monitor kept beeping, and no matter how I repositioned her, she was obviously in some kind of physical distress and having difficulty breathing,” Gaspar recalled.
“Thankfully, I had a close relationship with the DHR Chief of Staff, Dr. Martin Garza, a pediatrician and I dialed his personal cell number,” Gaspar said. “He suggested I place Autumn in her car seat to see if that support might help stabilize her.”
Initially, the suggestion seemed to work, but after a few minutes, Autumn began to code, and Gaspar took the toddler out of her car seat, laid her on the bedroom floor, and quickly began CPR, while Felicia dialed 911.
“The paramedics were here in about five minutes,” Felicia says.
Felicia described their recent family vacation at Easter to Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, where all the rides are specifically equipped to handle wheelchairs.
“Any time you can spend together can be celebration enough for a truly close-knit family, Felicia says, and then proudly noted her older daughter’s interests: Ellie, T-ball and her “calling”, music, and Elizabeth’s natural affinity for softball and dancing.
“All my daughters just need a bit of encouragement,” Felicia declared. “We want them to believe in themselves, and remember to just be nice to people,” she affirmed. “Even Autumn, despite her challenges, can prove people wrong with her ‘other-abilities’, and we’ll help her to believe in herself,” Felicia states.
The Hinojosas admit to being “most comfortable” just hanging out at home watching movies with their daughters and 5-five-year old German shepherd-Lab mix, “Bear,” and are looking forward to a calm, peaceful Mother’s Day.
“If I had to go through this, through all the difficulties from the beginning, I would,” Felicia avows. “If you’re never put to the test, you won’t learn.”