Last January, Monserrat "Monse" Rodriguez , a healthy and outgoing 21-year-old police explorer with Buena Park police, suffered a severe headache and was rushed to the hospital. She was in a coma 40 minutes later.
Her family soon learned Rodriguez has a genetic condition called arterial venous malformation that strikes less than 1 percent of the population, causing a brain hemorrhage often between the ages of 20 and 25.
"It was very tough, especially when the doctors told me she was going to be a vegetative state," said Martha Cortes, her mother.
After two months in a coma following brain surgery, she was removed from life support, but Rodriguez refused to die. A few weeks ago she gradually started waking up, recognizing faces and understanding conversations.
Rodriguez uses a feeding tube and requires oxygen. She's undergoing physical and speech therapy.
As Rodriguez continues to improve, her family says the medical bills also continue to increase, adding up to about $1 million.
Rodriguez, who dreamed of becoming a police officer, is getting help from the people she got to know as an explorer.
"It touched everyone," said Kristine Alfonso, a friend of Rodriguez. "No one deserves this, but it was a shocker that it happened to her."
Local police agencies have gathered donations to help with a rummage and bake sale this weekend. If Rodriguez never knew how many people cared about her, she does now.
"It's a miracle to see how she is and how fast her recovery is coming," Alfonso said.
The Buena Park Explorer program will be holding a benefit rummage and bake sale in the Buena Park City Hall parking lot on April 21 and 22. The Explorers are asking for donations of big and small items to be sold that weekend, with all proceeds being donated to the Rodriguez family for her care and medical bills.
Questions about the rummage sale or drop-offs can be directed at Buena Park Police Officer Lorie Nasman at (714) 562-3993.
Anyone wishing to contribute to Rodriguez's medical recovery can do so on the Buena Park Police Department website at www.bppd.com.