ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - The family of a young man left disabled after an emergency surgery went terribly wrong is crediting the boy's middle school educator for giving them hope and changing their son's life for the better.
Just last year Mel Phipps-Alderete, dedicated Green Bay Packers fan with a love for country music, lived life like any other teen.
When the 16-year-old was just six months old doctors noticed spinal fluid seeping into his brain. They inserted shunts to help it drain, and while the condition left the boy mildly disabled, he was still a very active and charming young man.
Then this past March one of the shunts got infected and the teen was rushed to the hospital to undergo surgery. During that surgery something went terribly wrong and he had bleeding on his brain, leaving him severely brain damaged.
Now Phipps-Alderete fights everyday to survive, he is unable to talk, walk and even eat on his own. His family knows he is a fighter and has seen amazing progress in the last seven months. Alderete can squeeze people's hands to communicate and still shows off his personality by giving high-fives and thumbs ups!
Eespite the boy's struggles, his family says they aren't giving up hope and have found a hero in Kathy Kleyboecker, an educational assistant at the boy's former middle school. Kleyboecker would help him with life-skills type duties, but now she's helping him and his family thrive.
Kleyboecker visits Phipps-Alderete almost every day, reading to him and helping him with therapy.
She says it's all because Mel touched her heart three years ago.
"He would come bounding into the workroom, ‘Mrs. Kathy! Mrs Kathy!' and he would have a joke or a hug his hugs were just unbelievable," Kleyboecker tells KRQE News 13.
The educator has also helped the family with donations from local businesses so that Phipps-Alderete can live comfortably. During the Corrales fires this summer she was able to get Home Depot to donate a personal air-conditioner for inside the Alderete's home. It was vital because Mel has tracheotomy and uses a tube to breathe. It's very sensitive and can not tolerate smoke or dust. She was also able to get a Stonegate Turfgrass Ranch in Moriarity to donate grass for the family's lawn.
It's something that's priceless to Mel since he used to be a water boy for the Volcano Vista football team and enjoys being outside, but can't be in the dirt.
Kleyboecker insists Mel's the real hero here, "He's here fighting to come out, but it's just little tiny baby steps."
Everyone in the family admires Mel's ability to fight and push through the toughest odds. They are raising money to send him to special therapy, hoping he will one day be able to walk and talk again.
There is an upcoming fundraiser at CrossFit HellBox in Rio Rancho. The business has been a big supporter of the family.
Mel's father Ray Alderete is also a Rio Rancho Police officer who has served the community for 13 years, most of them on the SWAT team.
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