Maryam Pakdelan-Gaffoglio, second from right, is comforted by Neonatal ICU nurse Debbie Vandevelde as Maryam wipes a tear after she and her husband Eric Gaffoglio, left, donated $10,000 to CHOC on April 12, 2017 in Orange, Calif. (Paul Rodriguez/Orange County Register/TNS)

Family Sells Jewelry Collection To Repay 35-Year-Old Hospital Bill

By Courtney Perkes
The Orange County Register

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet the family who made a donation to a California hospital not only as a debt of gratitude, but as a repayment of an actual bill.

ORANGE, Calif.

Josefina Saldana-Gaffoglio selected her jewelry with care, often making sentimental choices, like the gold cross she wore last year to a baby shower for her first grandchild.

The cross was a gift in 1992 from her husband on their son’s 10th birthday, a milestone she said wouldn’t have happened without Children’s Hospital of Orange County.

After Saldana-Gaffoglio’s sudden death earlier this year, her son and daughter-in-law sold the necklace, along with her entire jewelry collection.

On Wednesday, which would have been her 74th birthday, Eric Gaffoglio and Maryam Pakdelan-Gaffoglio presented a $10,000 check to CHOC from the proceeds.

“It’s what she wanted,” Gaffoglio, 35, told two nurses who worked in the neonatal intensive care unit when he was there. “That was her wish. When she died it was our responsibility to take care of it.”

The donation was not only a debt of gratitude, but repayment of an actual bill.

In 1982, Gaffoglio suffered a collapsed lung after he was born at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach. He was sent to CHOC and after a three-day stay, his parents couldn’t afford the $10,000 bill. So CHOC waived the fee.

Saldana-Gaffoglio always referred to the doctors and nurses as angels and expressed her gratitude. She said she wanted to one day donate her jewelry to the Orange hospital.

“She would always say that,” Pakdelan-Gaffoglio said. “We thought, we have time and she’ll do it.”

Instead, Saldana-Gaffoglio died an hour after experiencing a stroke in January.

Saldana-Gaffoglio collected jewelry from her travels around the world. She had pearls from Hawaii and a gold bracelet and necklace from Italy. Her most expensive pieces included a $3,000 diamond bracelet and a $5,000 Cartier necklace and earring set.

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