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Gaby Still Gravely Ill

Edwin Saavedera, her father, said she needs everyone's prayers.

<bt>Since July 22, Gabriella Saavedra, 8 and-a-half, has been in the Intensive Care Unit of Children's Hospital in Washington, D.C., fighting against an unknown illness.

Last week, she started improving a bit and even opened her eyes and moved a hand and foot. But the next day her seizures started again, according to Centreville's Carol Trujillo, who is caring for Gaby's younger sister, Annie, 7, while their parents are at the hospital.

"Most of all she needs prayer," said her father Edwin Saavedera of Centreville's London Towne Community, who along with his wife, Fidelia, was delighted last week when it seemed she was coming out of her coma. Now the doctors have discussed the possibility of surgery and are changing treatment because of this latest set-back.

"They are changing her medications," Edwin Saavedra said Wednesday afternoon. He explained that she is on a ventilator, and because the doctors are worried about infection they will be removing the tube from her nose and inserting it into her belly. "Her eyes are open," he said, "but we really don't know if she can see. I just want to be with her, be close to her."

A rising third-grader at London Towne Elementary, Gaby took sick July 14 with a fever and neck and head pains. Soon, she began having seizures and was rushed to Inova Fair Oaks Hospital and later transferred to Children's Hospital.

There, doctors medically induced a coma to prevent further seizures and hopefully avoid brain damage. But whenever they tried to bring her out of it, Gaby would suffer another seizure and they had to put her back into a coma.

Trujillo, of the Rocky Run community, said doctors still do not know what led to the child's mysterious illness. They suspect some type of virus, but do not know what it is, specifically, or what caused it. And she said doctors advised the Saavedras that Gaby will require "a lot of rehabilitation for speaking and walking."

Since neither parent has been able to work since Gaby has been in the hospital — and finances were tight before then — the local community has established a bank account for Gaby to help pay her medical bills and has held fund-raisers.

Here are ways to help:

* Fitness Together, a Chantilly gym, is holding a fund-raising "Go the Mile for Gaby" weight-loss challenge for six weeks, beginning Sept. 1. Call 571-323-2223.

* A bake sale will be held Saturday, Sept. 17, from 9 a.m.-noon, in front of the Stone Road Giant Foods store in Centreville.

* Tax-deductible donations to the fund toward Gaby's medical bills, payable to Gabriella Saavedra, may be sent to her c/o Chevy Chase Bank, 5613 Stone Road, Centreville, VA 20120.