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Little brother’s battle with rare disease inspired Harvard-bound student


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    SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Seeing a loved one struggle with a serious illness is never easy. But if it’s a child that’s sick, the emotional impact can be even more devastating. But when Giselle Chiprez Ramirez saw her little brother Francisco hospitalized with a rare condition, she turned her concern for his health into motivation.

“He’s my little ray of sunshine,” declared Chiprez Ramirez. “He keeps me happy, and he’s the reason why I’m doing the things I want to do.”

Francisco is a loving little boy who has been through a lot.

“My little brother has a genetic condition called ‘tuberous sclerosis,’” explained Chiprez Ramirez.

The rare condition can cause tumors to form in the brain of patients like Francisco. Growing up, Chiprez Ramirez says her heart ached as she watched him cope with seizures and developmental delays, as he missed out on school and other learning opportunities.

“Essentially [it was] just a feeling of powerlessness,” said Chiprez Ramirez. “Not being able to do anything — just talking to all of his physicians and all of his doctors translating for my parents, doing things like that.”

Chiprez Ramirez’ immigrant parents leaned on their daughter for support during their son’s doctors’ appointments and stays at the hospital.

“She’s the light of my life, shared Chiprez Ramirez’ mother Rosa (in Spanish). “Giselle has been an incredible help throughout this entire struggle with Francisco and his condition, even if it’s, as you can see, translating things for me.”

The experience with her brother’s health inspired the KIPP San Jose Collegiate high school senior to study science and dream big for college. She only applied to just one school, Harvard. And she got in. Medical school will be her next step.

“Seeing how much all of the doctors were able to help my brother, it really made me want to help others the same way,” explained Chiprez Ramirez of her desire to serve others through medicine.

Now Chiprez Ramirez’ academic achievement is just one blessing the family is grateful for. Surgery in late 2019 to remove a tumor in Francisco’s brain was a success. And on a recent warm Spring day, his fun-loving sense of humor was on display as he teased his mom and sister.

“I’m going to be a chef, she’s going to be a doctor,” declared Francisco about his future career plans, noting a special job for his mother Rosa. “My mommy, she is going to be a superhero.”

The family is eagerly planning a trip to Boston the last week of August, so they can drop off Chiprez Ramirez at college. They all have shirts that proudly declare she is going to Harvard.

Chiprez Ramirez says she will miss Francisco the most, the little brother she credits as her inspiration.

“Francisco is wonderful,” said Chiprez Ramirez with pride. “Anytime anyone asks me about him, [I say] he is definitely the reason I am as ambitious, as resilient as positive and optimistic as I am.

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