Alina Terrones isn’t stopped by much.
Unless you count the back of a couch that met her noggin as her cousins were chasing her around the house — that led to one of her three concussions, all before the age of 15.
Alina is fearless, whether as an outfielder for Cabrillo High’s softball team, an attacker on the Conquistadores’ soccer team or learning on the fly playing girls volleyball — her first experience being on the high school’s varsity team this past season.
“She isn’t afraid of anything. You give her a goal, and she’ll do anything to achieve it,” said Pia Terrones, Alina’s mother.
But sometimes, life has a different plan — one that can strike fear into anyone’s heart, no matter how much courage is shown.
For months, Alina complained of side-splitting pain, particularly in the area of her appendix.
Pia shuffled her off to doctor appointment after doctor appointment.
The explanations varied from tough menstrual cycles to potential appendicitis. No tests were conclusive, and it left Alina in constant pain.
But the determined 15-year-old still played volleyball, diving on the gym surface as the heir apparent at libero for Cabrillo.
“I love the position, it fits me,” Alina said with a big smile.
But despite her ability to set aside pain and be there for her team, it simply wouldn’t go away.
She wasn’t the only one in her school dealing with this problem, as Pia had crossed paths with another family that was dealing with similar circumstances.
Recently, that classmate had done an exploratory surgery that found his appendix out of position, stuck near his chest wall.
Moving it seemingly stopped his pain — and gave the Terrones family hope.
Just about two weeks ago, Alina’s doctors ordered the same procedure for her at Santa Barbara’s Cottage Hospital — the first experience for either Alina or Pia at the massive facility.
“The idea that she wouldn’t be in pain anymore, that’s all we cared about,” Pia said.
As the Terrones checked in, the reality set in for Alina — she was about to have surgery. Despite her determination, there was a healthy fear setting in.
As she rolled down the hall, she couldn’t help but tear up — a great departure for her mother to see.
“I just wanted my mom,” Alina said, tears welling up in her eyes again.
“And I couldn’t imagine not being there with her,” Pia said, with tears running down her cheeks.
But overcoming that fear paid nearly immediate dividends, as Alina was more comfortable than she had been in months after surgery, although she had to stick around for a bit to make sure that all was well.
That time allowed her to visit with the Santa Barbara Foresters, as the semipro baseball organization makes it a point to visit Cottage’s pediatric wing every holiday season, bringing a load of toys with them as part of their Hugs for Cubs program.
Foresters manager Bill Pintard, donning reindeer antlers, turns into a kid, knowing what it’s like to spend countless days with a sick child in the hospital.
Mr. Pintard nursed his son, Eric, back to health more than two decades ago, only to watch him lose his multiple battles with cancer.
“I’ve spent time here, I know what it’s like,” Mr. Pintard told Pia and Alina.
But, when visiting with Alina, the conversation wasn’t about what was ailing her, it was focused on what her next step would be.
Alongside Mr. Pintard were former Foresters Connor McManigal and Steven Reveles, as well as current San Jose State football player Jacob Songer and his mom, Christina, the Foresters’ board president.
They grilled her on softball, with Mr. Reveles even telling Alina to make sure to hit a couple of doubles against Dos Pueblos, even if he had to root for the Chargers due to family alliances.
They talked to her about attending clinics all over the U.S., and focus on what it takes to play at the next level, with Alina talking about playing for one of the best teams around, Arizona State.
“First of all being in the hospital at any time of the year is not very much fun. You’re in there because something serious is going on,” Mr. Pintard said. “Being there over the holidays is especially tough because it’s family time. A holiday meal with your loved ones, presents, songs — basically a happy time. So if we can bring some smiles, some joy, a gift or two and some conversation about things other than medical stuff, then why not? We get a lot of fulfillment out of doing this. We’re very fortunate to have this great facility in our town and we’re thankful to them for helping us do this.”
Pia couldn’t overstate what a visit like that meant for Alina.
“It means everything, to be able to give a few minutes of not thinking about sickness or pain, to just talk about what she truly loves, that was super special,” Pia said.