On the outside, 9-month-old William Maldonado III looks and acts just like any other baby.
An engaging infant with big brown eyes, his face lights up when he sees his daddy across the room and he immediately starts calling "da, da, da." His mother, Kathy Rodriguez, keeps his busy hands full of toys and teething rings.
"He's teething now, so everything is going into that mouth," she says.
But, on the inside, little William is not like every other baby. The Bear Creek infant was born with a condition called hetrotaxy syndrome.
Much of his anatomy is reversed, explains his mother. His stomach is on the right side, his liver is in the middle of his abdomen, and his intestines are on the left side. He only has one ventricle in his heart, and his pulmonary vessels are very small.
At some point, the family has been advised by their physicians at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia that he will most likely need a heart and lung transplant.
So far, he has had two heart catheterizations and he has been hospitalized three different times – as recently as last Tuesday – because his blood oxygen levels dropped dangerously low.
"When he gets stuffy or gets a cold, it gets harder for him to breathe," said Rodriguez.
William's oxygen levels usually run in the 70's and 80's.
Rodriguez was advised of William's condition during her pregnancy, but she and William's father, William Maldonado, Jr. chose to accept the situation and make the best of it.
"I've accepted him as unique," says Rodriguez. "I already had a 22-year-old daughter and a 17-year-old son. I thought I was done. But then he came along, and he has changed our life."
Rodriguez and her daughter were actually pregnant at the same time, and now William's niece, Anaiyah LaRocque, is his closest playmate.
William's situation and the medical and travel expenses that the family is facing came to the attention of Kim Bartlett of Wilkes-Barre, whose daughter went to high school with Rodriguez's daughter. Bartlett got in touch with Tracy Perry, of West Penn.
"Tracy's sister and I are friends, and she's the one who told me to call Tracy, because she's very good at fundraising," said Bartlett.
"I am very blessed with four healthy children of my own," said Perry, who saw the opportunity to help a less fortunate family and helped coordinate a fundraiser at Stonehedge Gardens that will run through the weekend.
"My art is on display here this month, so we decided that this would be the ideal place to hold an event," Perry said.
In addition to the proceeds from all art work sold this weekend, she organized a basket raffle and 50/50 to help raise funds for the Maldonado family. Many local businesses and individuals donated items for the basket raffle.
The event, which was held from 6-9 p.m. on Friday night, attracted many people from the area who are fans of Stonehedge and also wanted the opportunity to help little William. In addition to the art work and raffles, free refreshments were also available.
Bartlett and Perry were enthusiastic about the response and will begin planning another event to benefit William in the near future. The Maldonado and Rodriguez family will be returning to CHOP on June 29th for another follow-up appointment.
"We'll just wait and see what those results are and where we go from there," said Rodriguez. "Until then, we just hold him so tight every day and we are just so grateful for what everyone has done."
For more information about donating to the family, contact Kim Bartlett, at (570)574-8355.