Newcastle author pens children’s book after bout with heart failure

May 15, 2012

By Christina Lords

Carolyn Banguero (right), Newcastle resident and ‘Paolo’s Adventures’ author, signs a book for a fan at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. Contributed

Newcastle resident Carolyn Banguero had just been flown halfway across the United States in a small medical plane to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio after being diagnosed with heart failure — the same hospital where her father had died with the same condition 25 years before.

That was a Wednesday.

She was to be hooked up to an IV with medication, a breathing tube and a medical device that would force her heart to pump.

“It was freaky,” she said. “I had never even broken a bone.”

By Monday, the Federal Way School District teacher was told by doctors to be ready to receive a heart transplant because her heart was only doing about 6 percent of the work it should be doing.

She was only 31.

But by Saturday, something inexplicable was happening — she was getting better.

“They don’t know how or why. The medical papers say it’s miraculous,” Banguero said. “After they just came in and put me on the heart transplant list … they told me I was on the edge of a cliff between life and death. They told me they didn’t know if I would live.”

While she had no idea at the time, she had heart failure symptoms — including shortness of breath, coughing and fatigue — prior to her diagnosis.

“I had caught a cold at school … I started feeling light-headed and gasping for air at night,” she said. “You know how you’re a career woman and you just keep telling everyone, ‘It’s nothing, I’ll be fine?’ That’s what I kept telling everybody.”

Although still extremely weak from her surgeries, Banguero was released from the hospital and able to come back to her home in Newcastle only two weeks after being admitted to the Cleveland Clinic.

As she went through the recovery process, Banguero learned the story of Paolo, a small kitten brought into MEOW Cat Rescue in Kirkland, where Banguero volunteered.

The medical staff, which also works closely with animals from the Animal Hospital of Newport Hills in Newcastle, learned Paolo’s chest hadn’t fully developed and his heart and lungs were under stress. The cat would need surgery and a body cast to reverse his concave ribcage.

The kitten grew short of breath easily and his prospects seemed grim — not unlike Banguero’s own experience.

Banguero was inspired to sit down and write “Paolo’s Adventures: The Tale of a Very Brave Little Kitty,” a children’s book that tells the story of one lucky feline, from his point of view, who was rescued from the wilderness last year with his three siblings.

“I had to take a long leave of absence from my teaching, and I wanted to do something else with my life,” she said. “I wanted to do something positive.”

The book, geared toward elementary school-aged children, reveals what happened next and where Paolo is today.

“It’s the journey through the cat’s eyes,” she said. “It’s about learning how to trust and making friends along the way.”

Real-life Paolo was fostered in a home in Bellevue and was adopted in Des Moines last spring.

Banguero said she’s been promoting the book through several book signings and has also volunteered her time at Seattle Children’s by reading the book to children facing illness and cancer.

She plans to write a second book with an anti-bullying theme based on another MEOW cat named Winston, who had to have his ears amputated due to ear cancer.

A percentage of the Paolo book’s proceeds are donated to MEOW Cat Rescue, a nonprofit, no-kill shelter.

Banguero lives in Newcastle with her husband, Edgar, and their two cats.

Betsy Schairer, a longtime friend of Banguero who illustrated the book, is a mixed-media artist and graduate of Western Washington University. She works at the Northwest College of Art in Poulsbo, and has a kitty of her own: a 10-year-old tabby named Puck.

The book is available on Amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com and through www.paolosadventures.com. Individuals can also donate copies of the book to patients of Seattle Children’s through the Paolo’s Adventures website.

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