Tomassina had an infectious smile and a hug that could snap you in two, but she struggled with diabetes and all of the complications the untreated disease invites. For many years we were able to help her control her diabetes with oral medications, but the disease continued to progress and ravish her body. She needed insulin, and the prospects of her getting it, along with the supplies, the monitoring, etc., was simply impossible. Tomassina died in 2017. It was losing her, only the most recent of several diabetic patients we had lost through the years, that prompted us to spend a year investigating solutions that would eventually lead to the inauguration of our insulin outreach program.
Twelve years ago we had a video made that we hope captured the essence of Somos Amigos. Featured in the video was a young man, one of our patients named José Ramon. Even then José Ramon had been coming to us for care for several years. He had been suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, and often his scarred skin would break out with new lesions. Then in his twenties, unable to work and usually shunned by others because of his appearance, he has spent much of his life as the sole caregiver for his wheelchair-bound grandmother who suffered a severe stroke many years ago.
Six years ago we publicized the challenging circumstances faced by one of our younger patients, six year old Franci. Like José Ramon’s, Franci’s young life had not been easy. His mother was only a teenager when she began having children, and eventually the stresses of a child raising several children was too much for her and she left Franci and his siblings with their dad. But life is not always cooperative to a farmer with young children who has to live off the land, searching for any opportunity to help make ends meet. Franci and his sisters were eventually taken into the home of Magaly, the local school teacher. Magaly and her husband Ernesto had done this before: they have a loving home, and there is always something to eat. And there is always room for one more.