AHA News: Father’s stroke in 49 inspired daughters to help patients – Consumer Health News
THURSDAY, Sept. 15, 2022 (American Heart Association News) — Alejandra Rosales Murillo and her four sisters were sitting in church with their parents one Sunday morning when one of the girls noticed her father’s face was stuck.
She whispered the news to her mother, Maria Rosales Murillo. She leaned over to her husband Jose Rosales Campos and asked if something was wrong.
“It’s probably Bell’s palsy again,” he said. A year earlier, he had a brief bout with the condition, which can cause temporary facial weakness.
As the information was whispered to each family member, the excitement caught the attention of a visiting preacher. He interrupted his sermon to ask if everything was okay. Jose nodded yes. The preacher then led the congregation in prayer for Jose and suspended the service.
The preacher urged the family to take Jose to the hospital, but he refused. He insisted they go ahead with their plans for the day, which included a meal to celebrate the 19th birthday of one of their daughters.
The family lived in Calexico, California. Although the restaurant was a short drive away, it was across the border in Mexicali, Mexico.
When they reached Mexicali, Jose’s speech was slurred. He was unresponsive. Maria drove to the local hospital. The hospital turned her away because Jose’s health insurance only covered him in the United States.
Maria drove back to California. It’s usually quick, but on that day – December 23, 2012 – the border crossing was jammed with holidaymakers.
Finally, about four hours after the service, the family reached a hospital in nearby Brawley, California.
Doctors determined that Jose, then 49, had suffered two strokes. His right side was paralyzed and he could not speak.
Alejandra, who goes by the name Ale, stayed at the hospital to help. A high school senior at the time, she knew she had to do everything from being a translator for her non-English speaking parents to simply helping them navigate this new journey. She also learned more about strokes there. She realized her father had been at great risk.
He was obese, drank a lot of beer, and preferred pizza and pork chops. He took medication for diabetes and high blood pressure.
“My dad went to the doctor once a year and was always told he needed to take better care of himself, but he never did,” Ale said. “We all tried to talk to him but he said, ‘I’m fine, don’t worry. I work out here.’”
After a week in the hospital, Jose went home in a wheelchair. He gradually transitioned to using a cane, although seizures after a stroke have sometimes required him to use a wheelchair again.
Jose had worked in a retail store in the United States and as a funeral director in Mexico. Now he couldn’t. He received a portion of unemployment and disability insurance and Medicaid, but the family struggled. Maria balanced her job and caring for Jose.
Ale had considered dropping out of high school to earn money. Her parents insisted that she graduate. She did and then went to work. She took a job in the fields of the Imperial Valley. She had to get up at 3 a.m. to go to work to harvest vegetables.
While this helped ease the family’s financial burden, Ale wasn’t satisfied. She wanted a career.
Inspired by those who helped her father, she wanted to help patients.
Taking out student loans allowed Ale to graduate as a Medical Clinical Assistant.
From 2017 to 2021, she worked as an admissions officer at the same Brawley hospital that treated her father. Last year she took on a position as a case manager, where she helps healthcare workers and patients access medication by working with their insurance company to ensure coverage.
She can work remotely, so she logs in from her parents’ house. So she can spend time with her father every day.
“He’s like my colleague,” she said. “During my break, I’ll see how he sees the news and I’ll make him something to eat.”
Jose mostly gets around with a cane, but also often uses a wheelchair or scooter. He speaks a few words and otherwise gestures with his left hand to communicate. While his right leg is somewhat flexible, his right arm remains paralyzed.
One of Ale’s younger sisters, Adriana Rosales, was also inspired to help patients. She works as a nurse at a hospital in Tempe, Arizona. She was 12 years old and was very close to her father when he had the stroke.
“We had a good support system from our church and family, but I didn’t realize how difficult it was going to be financially and emotionally,” Adriana said.
The sisters can’t help but wonder what would have been different if their family had known more about the risks of a stroke.
They also recognize that they were likely compromised by Hispanic cultural traditions. Many of the foods they normally eat are not part of a healthy diet. Another challenge is that health is seen as a taboo subject for discussion, Ale said. This is despite the fact that Hispanics have relatively high rates of high blood pressure, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
“Our goal as a family is to raise awareness about stroke, especially in our community,” Ale said. “We want them to know how much it can affect not just the person who suffered the stroke, but everyone around them.”
News from the American Heart Association covers heart and brain health. Not all views expressed in this story reflect the official position of the American Heart Association. Copyright is owned by the American Heart Association, Inc. and all rights are reserved. If you have any questions or comments about this story, please email [email protected]
By Diane Daniel, News of the American Heart Association
Was this page helpful?