When Holden Gothia was a 5-week-old infant, he suffered a tragedy that would go on to affect him for the rest of his life. In early 2007, the newborn was brutally mutilated at the hands of his mother, Katherine Nadal – a woman who had a history of drug abuse and also tested positive for methadone and cocaine the day after the incident.
Nadal claimed the family’s 12-pound dachshund had injured the baby, biting off tiny Holden’s genitals. Along with the mutilation, the left femoral artery was severed, causing Holden to lose two-thirds of the blood in his 9-pound body. It was thought this injury would prevent Holden from ever being able to use his left leg, and in the first few days after the injuries were sustained, Holden underwent a number of surgeries to save his life and his leg.
In 2009, a Harris County jury found that Nadal’s excuse of blaming the family pet did not hold up with the evidence presented to them and convicted her of harming her own son. She was sentenced to serve 99 years in a state penitentiary. Nadal and Holden’s father, Camden Gothia, relinquished their parental rights and Holden went to live with his aunt and uncle in Deer Park.
Now at the age of 4, Holden is a happy boy who enjoys keeping up with his cousins as they take part in sports and other activities.
“He loves to play ball – he’s a boy all the way,” said Holden’s great-aunt Cindy Vallet. “He’s very loving; never meets a stranger; very intelligent for his age. He’s got incredible social skills for a 4-year-old.”
Though he is enjoying life with his aunt, uncle and cousins, Holden has had many speed bumps throughout his short childhood – surgeries he has already undergone, the many more that will come in the future, not to mention the lifetime of hormone therapy that will begin when Holden reaches puberty.
One recent surgery was because of the massive blood loss and the lack of blood flow to his affected leg when he was injured. Because of the injury, his appendage is unable to keep up with the growth of his right leg as he ages.
“He had surgery about six weeks ago on his ankle. When his mother – or whoever – hurt him, they sliced a major artery in his leg,” said Vallet. “The lack of blood flow damaged his growth plates in his ankle so he had surgery to extend the tendon in his foot so that he could walk right. The doctor called it drop foot – the tendons in the heel were contracting, causing the toes to go down in his foot, so he was walking on his toes, instead of flat on his foot.”
While surgeries like the ones for his leg are covered in Texas under Medicaid, other surgeries Holden will need as he grows older are not because they are considered reconstructive surgeries. And because the surgeries will not be covered by Medicaid, Holden’s family will be responsible for subsidizing the procedures, which is why the nonprofit organization Heroes for Holden was created.
“His first surgery could cost up to $500,000,” said Glenda Thompson of Heroes for Holden. “There’s no one locally or in the state of Texas that can do his surgery. There’s a doctor that’s been recommended to them in Virginia. He won’t have to be subject to this until he’s 8 or 9 years old. That’s when they’ll consider him for his first reconstructive surgery.”
While the time frame may still be years away, with such an exorbitant amount of money needed, the family is working hard to earn every penny as soon as possible. And to do so, there will be the first of what is expected to become an annual event held June 5 at Burton Coliseum in Lake Charles.
“Cindy and her husband, C.O., own Cowboys and Yesterdays in Lake Charles. They came up with the idea of having an event there to raise money. It’s steadily gotten bigger and bigger so we decided to move it to the Burton Coliseum,” said Thompson.
The fundraiser has gotten some participation from a number of local big-name artists who volunteered to play a concert with the proceeds going to Holden. Some of the bands taking part include Wayne Toups and ZydeCajun, Gene Bourgeois, Zona Jones and Tracy Byrd, to name a few.
Bands will perform throughout the day while attendees can enjoy a barbecue lunch, and then look over a number of items for a silent and live auction. There will also be a drawing for a 2011 Ford F-150, with only 600 tickets available for $100 each.
“We have fishing and hunting trips, air fare, a home security alarm system, purses and jewelry, and smaller items. We also have an autographed hat from Tracy Lawrence that he gave to put in the auction. We have a signed jersey from Nolan Ryan and Hank Blalock – both signed their jerseys for Holden to put in the auction. We’ll have guns for raffle, a barbecue pit — all kinds of things,” said Thompson.
Heroes for Holden has gotten support from people and organizations all over the country. Players of the Kansas City Chiefs are expected to attend, as is photographer Von Cook, who will take pictures of attendees with Holden or other attending celebrities for a $25 donation.
Locally, two members of the Southeast Texas community are also pulling for Holden with full force – Jerry Nelson and Joe Penland. Jerry Nelson, owner of Nutty Jerry’s in Winnie, goes way back with Holden’s family. As owners of Cowboys and Yesterdays in Lake Charles, C.O. and Cindy Vallet know Nelson from over 20 years ago. A few weeks ago, the Vallets approached Nelson and told him of Holden’s rough beginnings and the difficult path he faces in the future.
“It’s horrible for a mom to do that to her baby,” Nelson said. “I gave a pretty sizable contribution, and a few weeks ago at the Marshall Tucker concert at my place, I got to meet him. He’s a cute little ol’ kid. And for what he’s gone through, he’s got a sparkling personality – he’s a really neat kid. He’s had a lot of battles and there are a lot in front of him.”
Penland, who owns Quality Mat Company, also felt compassion for Holden and his struggles.
“This is a child who has had something horrible happen in his life,” said Penland. “He’s had several surgeries and it’s going to take more. If we can help out with a little bit of money, have four or five benefits over a long period of time, we’ll do our best to help.”
Heroes for Holden is currently looking for sponsors and other charitable donations for the June 5 event.
Sponsorship levels range from Silver to Platinum. To become a Silver sponsor, a donation between $1,500 and $2,499 is needed. A Gold sponsor would donate between $2,500 to $4,999, and over $5,000 for a Platinum sponsorship. Sponsorships come with a number of tickets for admittance, parking passes, VIP service at dinner and a number of drinks from the VIP bar.
For information about donating to Holden’s fundraiser, obtain a sponsorship, or more information, visit the Web site heroesforholden.org or e-mail Glenda Thompson at glenda-t [at] sbcglobal [dot] net.
Thompson and Vallet said they hope the Heroes for Holden event will take place on an annual basis even after Holden has completed all the necessary surgeries and recoveries.
“We want this to be an on-going thing,” said Vallet. “Hopefully after Holden is taken care of, it will continue to help other children who have had such a tragic crisis in their lives.”