Going to a homecoming dance is a milestone for a lot of students, but for Nayla Rivera, a junior at Forest Hill High School, it's so much more. She got out of the hospital Friday and she was put on hospice so she could go to homecoming Saturday night.
"It would’ve been terrible if I decided not to go and wouldn’t be able to go next year because of what might happen," Nayla said.
On Saturday afternoon, Nayla had on camera-ready makeup, her hair was curled and she had a red dress ready to wear to homecoming at 7 p.m.
However, she also had to bring an oxygen tank along with her.
"Just walking on the street I’ll probably run out of air. That’s why I need my oxygen," she said.
Nayla was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was a baby. She also has diabetes.
“I’ve had to take tons of medications, do my nebulizer, do chest PT and stuff like that," she said. "Always go to the hospital.”
She said this is the worst she’s ever felt.
"Usually it’s ok. It stays maintained, but I’ve just been decreasing, dropping over this year," she said.
Nayla would’ve still been in the hospital Saturday if she and her mom hadn’t decided to put her on hospice.
"We thought it would be better, so I won’t be always in the hospital," she said. "I can do all my antibiotics here. I can do all my treatments here and still go to school."
While some associate hospice with imminent death, Nayla said she doesn't see it like that. For her, it's about convenience and being able to get treated at home. She also wanted to make sure she could go to homecoming with her cousins, which she couldn't do if she was in the hospital.
"They said, 'Ok, we’ll make it happen for you,' basically as a death wish," she said.
However, Nayla said she's not nervous about her future. She said she knows her body best. She also knows she still has a strong will to fight.
"Just because the numbers may be low doesn’t mean anything. Don’t give up. Don’t let them tell you it’s the end for you," she said. "You tell yourself when it’s the end. Once you know you can’t push no more then that’s it. They don’t know."
Doctors aren't hopeful. Nayla had qualified for a lung transplant earlier this year and she was put on the waiting list. However, doctors said she's now too sick to undergo surgery, so she was taken off of that list.
"They feel like they can’t do anything more for me," she said.
Nayla won’t accept that fate though.
“They only see numbers. They only see what they can do and I understand why they say that, but I’ll show them different," she said.
She gets that from her mom.
“I do not treat her as a sick child," said Milagros Marrero Garces, Nayla's mother. "I will never do that. I don’t think anybody should do that because it gives them strength to continue.”
To Nayla, homecoming is just another night in the life she plans to continue to live.
"You never know when's your last day. You never know when you're not going to be here anymore, so just live it to the fullest," she said. "I feel like that cystic fibrosis has done that for me."
"I’m more excited than probably what she is because this is a moment that she deserves. She deserves this and much more," Marrero Garces said.