COVINGTON, Ky. — Kristen and Kyle Fernandez started July with a road trip: Nearly 400 miles in a white Nissan Pathfinder, two toddlers in the back seat, from O'Fallon, Missouri, to Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
The Fernandez family was searching for the best care possible for their 2-year-old daughter, Raeleigh. In Cincinnati, Raeleigh received the first in a series of surgeries to eventually remove a trach, which she currently uses to help her breathe.
Raeleigh received her surgery July 15. Her doctors asked the family to stay in town for 10 days, so the family devoted the next week to recovery and fun.
"The procedures went good," Kristen Fernandez said.
And then, on Monday, someone stole the family's car from their hotel parking lot, leaving them stranded without transportation six hours from home.
"It's hard to see someone take a car that has handicapped plates, two car seats and a stroller in the back," Kyle Fernandez said. "Just kind of crazy."
Security cameras at their hotel recorded two suspects climbing in and driving away around 5:30 Monday morning. Neither had been arrested by Wednesday night.
Although the family's insurance provided money for them to rent a vehicle and Children's Hospital loaned them a pair of car seats, they'll have to find their own replacements for the rest of the stolen equipment. Raeleigh's stroller, especially, was a hard thing to lose.
"We specifically got this stroller because it has so much space for her suction machine," Kristen Fernandez said. "It's a life-sustaining medical supply when your kid has a trach."
The family set up a Facebook fundraiser to help replace it and other stolen medical supplies, which they estimate will cost around $10,000. Anyone wishing to donate can do so by clicking here.
The family plans to head back to Missouri in their rented car on Thursday, according to Kyle. Their next trip to Cincinnati is scheduled for Sept. 19, when Raeleigh will be part of a sleep study to determine the next steps in her treatment.
Despite the panic of the last several days, Raeleigh's parents said she's been a lesson in resilience the entire time.
"From day one, she's been a fighter," Kristen said. "Great personality. Goofy. Fun. (She's) so easygoing, especially with everything she has going on."
This story was originally published by Jake Ryle on WCPO in Cincinnati.