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Isani: In the Driver's Seat


Isani Castro, then and now
Isani, then and now

When Isani Castro of the South Bronx was a child, she and her brother Gabriel got to sit behind the wheel of Children’s Health Fund’s big blue bus.

They were too young to drive, of course, but not too young to start steering their health in the right direction with regular visits to the mobile medical clinic.

When Isani's mother was pregnant with her, she discovered the Children’s Health Fund services in the South Bronx, which are provided in partnership with Children’s Hospital at Montefiore. There she met Dr. Altagracia Tolentino, who would become a central figure in the health of the entire Castro family.

A few years later, while Isani was attending a Head Start pre-school program, her mother noticed something wasn’t right with one of Isani’s eyes. Naturally, she took her daughter straight to Dr. Tolentino, who suspected amblyopia or “lazy eye” and referred her to an ophthalmologist. The specialist confirmed the diagnosis and prescribed glasses with a special prism for Isani.

Watch our video about Isani

The prism eventually corrected the problem and now Isani has outstanding vision without glasses.

“It’s fortunate that we caught the problem early,” said Dr. Tolentino. “As children age, the condition becomes more difficult to correct and can have a negative impact on their development.”

Today, Isani is excelling in her classwork and looking forward to college. “I have my eyes on Columbia University,” she said. “I’d like to be a lawyer someday.” Meanwhile, Gabriel is working at a local pharmacy and also planning to go to college in the near future.

Over the years, Dr. Tolentino has had many opportunities to help the Castro children stay healthy. “Dr. Tolentino has taken care of all of our kids growing up. She knows us. She’s been our family doctor all these years,” Isani’s father said.

Thanks to good health care, Isani and Gabriel still have their hands on the wheel and are in the fast lane to exciting, productive and successful lives.