When Project Access NOW client Gerardo walked into our office to speak to us for this article, he was pleased to find an old friend waiting for him. Gerardo and Project Access NOW’s own Program Implementation Specialist Sasha Viches first met in 2013, when Gerardo sought help for pain in his foot at Outside In’s free clinic. Sasha was employed there at the time.
At Outside In, Gerardo learned that the pain in his foot was casused by peripheral neuropathy, an early sign of diabetes. This diagnosis explained the vision problems he’d been experiencing.
“At night, I would look out in the streets,” recalls Gerardo, “and [my vision was so bad that] the only thing I could see was the red of the cars’ tail lights as they passed.”
A hard working day laborer, though an undocumented one, with limited English skills, Gerardo lacked a permanent home and most nights either crashed with friends or slept on the street. These conditions, combined with his drug use at the time, accelerated complications related to his diabetes and lead to the amputation of his foot in June of 2013.
“So much has changed since that time, it has felt like a real journey for me,” recalls Gerardo now as Sasha interprets for him. “Thankfully, Project Access NOW was with me the whole time.”
Referred to our Classic Care program by the clinicians at Outside In, Project Access NOW connected Gerardo to the surgery necessary to safely amputate his leg and, eventually, to the prosthetic that would soon let him walk again. Meanwhile, with help from our friends at Legacy and Providence, we connected Gerardo to two different eye surgeries in an effort to save his vision.
“As an undocumented person, going to the doctor is extra stressful … you worry about your health. but you are also worry about, ‘How will I pay for any of this? When are they going to start asking for paperwork?’ Could I wind up deported. With Project Access NOW, that stress was gone. I felt like a human being.”
When Gerardo walked up the stairs of our office for his interview (followed by a big hug from Sasha), he did so without a cane, something he says would have been impossible just three months before. Though he still lives mostly on the street, he quit using drugs in 2013, a change he attributes to the love and support of the church community he joined.
Discussing what has helped him get to where he is now, he names three things without hesitation,
“God,” he says, “Outside In, and Project Access NOW.