Jadyn Benavidez-Soza’s smile was all anyone in the Fresno barbershop cared about Friday morning as her mother’s long, dark hair fell to the floor.
Jadyn, 11, who was struck by a car Nov. 3, had not been expected to survive head and other injuries after the accident, but Salvador and Annie Soza’s faith in their daughter’s recovery never wavered.
And three weeks after being hit on Tulare Street near First Street in southeast Fresno, mother and daughter connected on FaceTime – Jadyn from her bed at Community Regional Medical Center and Annie Soza in a barber chair at Fresno’s Illest Tattoo Barber Shop at Clovis and Ashlan avenues.
“I’m doing this for you, baby,” Soza said.
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I’m doing this for you, baby.
Annie Soza, mother of Jadyn Benavidez-Soza
Barber Cesar Gutierrez pulled up the braided ponytail that had hung mid-back, and snipped.
“I love you, baby,” Soza said. Came the reply: “I love you too, Mom.”
Over the past week, Jadyn has become progressively more alert, pulling out her breathing tube about four days ago. It was alarming, but Soza said her husband relaxed after he walked into the hospital room and Jadyn smiled and whispered, “Daddy, I did it.”
Soza, 34, said her daughter can be sassy, and when she attempted to calm her breathing, which had become too rapid, her daughter responded to the admonition “baby, breathe slower,” with a raised hand and “Mommy, I know.”
Before the accident, Jadyn, a fifth-grader at Jackson Elementary, had just started playing volleyball and was a natural at it, her mom said. Jadyn’s shiny dark hair fell below her waist, swinging with each serve of the ball. But the girl’s long hair had to be cut off and her injured head shaved before surgery.
“It was a big deal to wake up and her not to have her hair,” Soza said.
She has been at her only child’s bedside since the accident and repeatedly told Jadyn: “We’re going to get through this together.” That included matching shaved heads, Soza said.
Salvador Soza, 36, has shaved his hair for years (Annie divulged he has a receding hairline), so it fell to Annie to follow suit and give up her locks for Jadyn (and for a donation to Locks of Love, a nonprofit that provides hairpieces to disadvantaged children suffering from long-term hair loss).
A buzz cut is a small sacrifice to make for her daughter, who has a long recovery ahead, Annie Soza said.
Doctors have recommended Jadyn go to Shriners Hospital for Children in Sacramento for rehabilitation when she is well enough to be transferred. The Sozas have no car and have a fundraising effort underway to buy one to make trips to Sacramento and for traveling money and related expenses.
It was a big deal to wake up and her not to have her hair.
When Soza told Jadyn she would shave her head, her daughter wanted the buzz cut done in her hospital room. That wasn’t possible. So Larry Sanchez, who is Salvador Soza’s cousin and co-owner of Fresno’s Illest Tattoo Barber Shop (he runs the tattoo side and Gutierrez the barber side), arranged the haircut.
“You’re my first client of the day,” Gutierrez said Friday as he snapped on gloves.
“Look, baby,” Soza said as the buzzing from electric snippers filled the barbershop and her daughter’s eyes widened on the telephone screen. “We’re going to be twins.”
Her head shaven (with a No. 2 clip to match the few days’ growth of brown fuzz on Jadyn’s head), Soza needed another smile and Jadyn obliged. “That’s my princess,” Soza said, blowing a kiss to Jadyn, who in return puckered her lips.
The FaceTime chat over, Sanchez asked Gutierrez to make a few more snips for “J-J,” a name of endearment Soza calls her daughter. “Can you put a ‘J’ on the back of her head?”
The initial in place, Gutierrez added a little something of his own: a star.
Handed a mirror so she could see the handiwork, Soza grinned. Jadyn certainly is a star, she agreed.
“She’s going to love it.”