Central Texas family makes it home for Christmas after spending over a month in a Florida hospital

Published: Dec. 27, 2022 at 7:45 AM CST
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WEST, Texas (KWTX) - A mother and daughter from West finally returned home just in time for Christmas after spending over a month in a hospital over 1,000 miles away. During that time, the community raised funds to cover expenses.

Nikki Altieri and her daughter, Daytyn, traveled to Florida for Thanksgiving to visit relatives they had not seen in over a decade. When they arrived, Altieri noticed Daytyn’s oxygen levels were very low, and she brought her to the hospital the night before Thanksgiving.

“We got here [Florida] about 6 p.m. on Wednesday, had dinner, put her to bed, and I couldn’t get her oxygen level up,” Altieri said. “I had her on the max that I could give, and she just wasn’t tolerating that well.”

Doctors rushed Daytyn to a hospital in Orlando about 300 miles away from where their relatives lived. After many medical scares, including a moment when Daytyn stopped breathing, Altieri feared she might be in the hospital for several months.

“She has had pneumonia 12 times in this last year, so she gets it a lot,” Altieri said. “But, this one just kind of unfortunately got her a little harder than most.”

Daytyn soon recovered and was able to spend time with relatives in Florida, but, around the same time Daytyn got better, Altieri started showing unusual symptoms.

“I got admitted this Sunday before she got discharged,” Altieri said. “So, my sister took her home that Tuesday, and I was in the hospital that whole week. But, she was up running around and running the hospital the following week.”

Altieri was diagnosed with empyema which affects the outside of the lungs. Doctors intubated her and she spent time in the hospital as well.

“My mom drove up and then waited for me to get out of the hospital, and we all drove back home,” she said. “It was a rough one because I had a chest tub in that whole week, so it was pretty hard. But we made it.”

With much determination and support, both Altieri and Daytyn were able to make it home just in time for Christmas.

Altieri said they got home on Friday, Dec. 16, and were able to go to her sister’s wedding. She said Daytyn was back to her normal self.

“She [Daytyn] literally danced all night,” Altieri said. “She loved it.”

Altieri and Daytyn were also thrilled that they made it home just in time to spend Christmas with family. She said Daytyn, her siblings and grandparents spent the day together. They opened up gifts on Christmas morning at their home and spent the rest of the day celebrating Christmas at Daytyn’s grandparents’ home.

“It’s been a very eventful month, so we’re just going to hang out at home and enjoy being at home with everybody,” Altieri said.

Daytyn told KWTX she was very excited for Christmas.

In addition to being home for Christmas, Daytyn and Altieri also received a very special gift from the community.

“We were lucky enough that I was able to pay all the bills while we were away,” Altieri said. “That way I didn’t have to worry about anything longer. She gets to have a great Christmas.”

They tell KWTX the community raised around $4,000 to cover expenses while they were away. Neighbors from all over Central Texas rallied around Daytyn and her mom participating in auctions and raffles and buying #DaytynStrong T-shirts.

“I never expected West to be what it is alongside of all of the fundraisers and the donations,” she said. “The community has just rallied together and done amazing things for her and we are very thankful for where we’re at.”

Altieri said the school also rallied behind Daytyn while she was in the hospital by having T-shirt days for support.

“The school has been amazing,” she said. “They all have T-shirts. They all send us pictures of everybody wearing purple and their shirts and it’s been wonderful.”

This instance mirrored another time Daytyn was in the hospital for months battling a similar diagnosis. The community started #daytynstrong for epilepsy and genetic disorder awareness and support.

“‘Daytyn Strong’ isn’t a statement...It isn’t a hashtag...It is a way for all of us to remember that this child has taught us all different things...different steps throughout life,” Altieri’s close friend and fundraiser organizer, Lara Lamaak said.

Because of the diagnoses Daytyn was born with, Altieri said she unfortunately expects that this was not Daytyn’s last hospital visit, but she also knows this will not be the last time the community will rally around Daytyn with compassion and generosity.

You can find the previous story here.