Daughter’s last wish would help families of hospitalized children

Plans moving forward for Zafia’s Family House
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Two out of three of Zafia Fyfe’s wishes have been fulfilled.

She visited the Eiffel Tower, although it was the replica one in Las Vegas and not the real deal in Paris. At the time, she was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Her second wish, that all her clothes be donated to an orphanage in a developing country, also came true.

Zafia’s final wish is the biggest undertaking. Before she passed away in 2006 at age 14, she asked her parents to build a house for families to stay in when their loved ones are hospitalized while being treated for cancer or other long-term illnesses in Roseville.

“That’s the last wish I have to fulfill for her,” said her mom, Rebecca Fyfe.

Rebecca and husband Robert Fyfe, of El Dorado Hills, hope to build a 6,000-square-foot house within a quarter-mile of Kaiser Roseville Medical Center and Sutter Roseville Medical Center, which they will call Zafia’s Family House.

Here, people can sleep overnight, take a shower, make a meal and get away from the stress. Currently, many families commute long distances to the hospital each day, sleep in chairs or their cars, or rent recreational vehicles and spend weeks living in the parking lot — at a high financial and emotional cost.

“The idea is you want to be with your child the most you can, but you also want to step away,” Robert Fyfe said.

Kaiser Roseville oncologist Dr. Kent Jolly has voiced support for a house such as this one for the past decade, ever since the hospital moved to Roseville from Morse Avenue in Sacramento.

“Even before the hospital moved, we knew this would be an unmet need of the new location,” Jolly said.

Near the previous location there was the Ronald McDonald House, Kiwanis Family House and the Sharing Place, all in Sacramento.

“When the hospital moved out here, those resources are all out of reach,” Jolly said.

Zafia’s story

Rebecca and Robert Fyfe adopted Zafia when she was 3 years old from an orphanage in Uzbekistan. She had been abandoned at 2 months old and left in the streets. She spoke only Russian.

In 2004, at age 12, Zafia was diagnosed with stage four osteosarcoma cancer and given two months to live. Cancer spread to her legs, pelvis, lungs and shoulder.

She battled cancer for the next two years. Her parents say they practically lived in the hospital.

“Our daughter’s wish, before she passed away, she realized the stress my husband and I were going through in the commute and not (leaving) her alone in the hospital. And her wish was mom, please build a house so other parents don’t have to go through what you and dad went through,” Rebecca Fyfe said in a recent presentation to the Roseville City Council.

After Zafia’s death, her parents stayed in touch with the oncology staff at Kaiser, where their daughter had been treated, and decided to pursue this cause.

Kaiser conducted a needs assessment among families whose children were in the hospital for the long haul. The results showed overwhelming support.

The Fyfes decided to step up and make it happen. They founded Zafia’s Family House, which was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in January.

They’ve received support from Oakmont High School’s Health Careers Academy. These students — with dreams of becoming doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians, veterinarians and more — will volunteer at upcoming fundraisers.

“We hope to make this an ongoing part of a community partnership,” said academy coordinator Wes Muller.

Muller was a sick child and spent three years in and out of the hospital. He remembers at the time thinking about the impact of that on his parents.

“It would be nice to remove that for kids in the hospital,” Muller said.

Keeping parents nearby

Jolly said there’s a psychological aspect for the parents, too — they want to feel they have enough time to get back to the hospital should something happen.

“When the kids are so sick, the parents don’t want to be far away,” Jolly said.

The house isn’t just for families with children in the hospital, though.

Hardy Crabtree, of Modesto, parked his RV in a designated spot outside Sutter Roseville Medical Center on Sunday and expects to live there for two or three weeks while his mother is at the center.

“It’s pretty nice, and you get free electricity,” Crabtree said. “There’s no water or sewage but you can’t ask for everything. It’s nice to at least have this.”

Zafia’s Family House will have at least six bedrooms with private bathrooms, a kitchen with a pantry, family room, laundry facility and storage within walking distance of both Roseville hospitals. They’ve identified three possible undeveloped plots in the vicinity.

They’ll ask for a minimal donation from families who stay there, and waive the fee if the family is unable to pay.

Jolly said the main hurdles in completing this house are money, space and the ongoing support needed to run it.

“Other hurdles are having (the) willpower,” Jolly said. “At least we’ve got that now.”

Sena Christian can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.


Upcoming fundraisers for Zafia’s Family House:
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4. Registration begins at 10:30 a.m.
Where: Oakmont High School, 1710 Cirby Way in Roseville
Cost: $15 donation
Info: Register at or pay at the door. For more information, email

Springtime in Paris fashion show
Doors open at 6 p.m., show at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 3
Where: Oakmont High School, 1710 Cirby Way in Roseville
Cost: $25 in advance, $30 at the door
Info: Purchase tickets at

5K Run
Registration begins 7:30 a.m. and race starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 14
Where: Maidu Park, 1550 Maidu Drive in Roseville
Cost: $25 before April 1, $30 after April 1
Info: A free 1/4 mile kid’s race for children 10 and under will start at 8:45 a.m. No registration required. To register, visit

Spring Dinner Dance
Time to be determined, Friday, April 27
Where: The Flower Farm, 4150 Auburn Folsom Road in Loomis
Cost: $100 donation
Info: To donate or sponsor the event, visit