A great story

Oscar is 27 years old. I met him in my recent trip to Mexico and his story is one of those stories that must be told:


We first learned about Oscar 3 years ago. He was 24 and had made the decision to go from his home country of Honduras to the US where his brothers live, looking for a better life. Making his way north, while in Mexico, he suffered a grave accident: he fell from a moving train. He was taken to the emergency room in Mexico City. As a result of his accident, both his legs were amputated, and it was at this moment that the treating doctors realized that Oscar’s blood tests did not look right. Soon thereafter the doctors diagnosed Oscar with CML. This is how Oscar found himself in a foreign country, where he did not know anyone, in grave physical condition, and with no resources at all.

As difficult as the situation was, Oscar’s story is an example of the power of generosity and survival: A group of nuns gave him shelter and took him under their care; with the help of one of the GIPAP physicians, Mariana’s guidance, and the support of Novartis, Oscar was included in GIPAP. Little by little, Oscar’s health started to improve.

Some time ago, with Mariana’s encouragement, Oscar joined the local CML patient support group, AMELEG, and started attending their monthly meetings. The group immediately embraced Oscar and provided the emotional support that only family can give. Oscar made great progress and was able to walk with the help of prosthetic legs. When I met him he was looking great, happy, and walking with confidence.

Still, I learned that the prosthetics legs don’t fit him quite right and that he needs new ones. Some of the members of AMELEG were happy to tell me that the group was raising funds to help Oscar get his new legs. They had organized an “Oscarthon” they said; one of the members of the group (the man in the red shirt below), a leukemia survivor himself, had made a beautiful Angel collectable doll and the doll was raffled among the members of the group as a fundraiser.

The last part of this story is very moving: I was there for the first time attending a patient group meeting and we were all very happy to finally get to spend time together. The person that had won the raffled doll was not there to receive the cherished prize. For a moment, there were small groups of people in deep discussions and then a group of them lead by Oscar and the survivor who had made the Angel doll, came to the front of the room and announced that they had decided to present the doll to me as a takeaway gift. They can always make another one for the raffle winner, they said.

I went from the patient meeting to the airport to fly back home. I was wondering how I was going to make it back with this very large Angel doll. But I can tell you something I found out, no one complains if you bring a beautiful large size Angel doll in an airplane. The doll arrived safely in Seattle and today is displayed in a prominent space in my office.

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