Caregiving mom's memories bittersweet on return to fair

Emily Bittner
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 20, 2003 12:00 AM

PHOENIX - The last time Veronica Duran came to the Arizona State Fair, she wheeled around her terminally ill daughter for a day of games and treats.

That was 1980 and Patty Salcido, 21, died the next year. She suffered from Ataxia-Telangiectasia, a rare but degenerative neurological disease that also affects muscle control.

"I would bring her here every year in her wheelchair to have a good time," Duran said.

On Sunday, Duran's grandchildren convinced her to return.

Duran, 68, won a bagful of stuffed animals that she clutched tightly while she rested on a bench outside the agricultural displays. Brightly colored flowers, purple dogs and dice spilled out. Duran planned to donate the toys to Phoenix Children's Hospital in her daughter's memory.

Salcido gave her life to research, Duran said. She was constantly in the hospital and got a number of experimental injections. She told her mother that she had a purpose on the Earth: to help other people.

Duran carries pictures of her daughter, who had the mind of a 21-year-old but the body of a 12-year-old. She pulled out of her wallet one important picture, taken for Salcido's high school graduation, two years before she died. Duran covered her wheelchair and made up her daughter with lipstick and blush to look her age.

"Isn't she beautiful?" asked Duran, who quit her job as a waitress to care for her daughter the last year she was alive. Duran now is a caretaker for elderly people.

"You never know when you're going to need help," she said. "I have a lot of love for people out there."

All day long at the fair, Duran spotted parents guiding their children in wheelchairs through the fairway.

"I look at them, and I just want to cry," Duran said. "I'm so proud of them for being here."

Reach the reporter at or (602) 444-6846.