It Just Takes One: Margarita Orozco Changes Life Of Young Man Injured In Car Accident
In honor of Mother's Day, HuffPost Impact presents It Just Takes One, a series on children and the tutors, mentors, guardians and others who have made a difference in their lives. Read the complete series and look out for our final story tomorrow.
Margarita Orozco's autistic daughter Nancy had a very bad fever as a child -- she frequently had seizures, and during a particularly bad episode, Margarita took her to the hospital. The seizure was hard to stop, and by the time doctors were able to alleviate it, there had been significant damage to Nancy's brain.
She's now in a wheelchair, still wearing diapers and barely speaking.
The thing that upsets her most is when people avert their eyes, are embarrassed by her daughter's presence.
"I wish that things could change -- don't feel sorry for them," Margarita said. "Just say 'Hi, how are you?' They are just like us."
She knows how hard life can often be for someone with a disability, so when she received a phone call from Edgar Hernandez, who was rendered a quadriplegic after a 2007 car accident, she immediately knew she needed to be part of his life.
Margarita volunteers with the Andre Sobel River of Life Foundation, which assists single parents who have children with catastrophic illnesses. In Edgar's case, he needed constant attention and was unable to travel back to his mother's home. The first thing Edgar told Margarita was that he wanted to die -- and asked for her help.
"It shocked me when he told me that," she said. "I told him 'I'm not going to help you with that.' At that time he didn't know about any help in the area where he lived. He had no support groups. Nothing."
Since she already had to care for her daughter full-time, Margarita never thought she'd be able to invite someone else into her house. But, with Edgar's injuries and feelings of hopelessness, she knew she had to help. She asked him to stay, and he agreed.
"It's not easy," she told me. "It takes a lot of time and we've been through it and it's been more than two years. He's doing great, he can talk."
Margarita is thrilled with Edgar's progress. His color is back and he's gained much of the weight he lost after the accident. Now 22, Edgar may move back home with his mother and re-establish contact with his father, who moved back to Mexico.
The experience, however, has strengthened both Margarita and Edgar. He's gained his confidence back and, despite great difficulty, has persevered and wants to live. Margarita has now become a strong advocate for those with disabilities and special needs. She works in a government office on mental health issues -- and she owes it to Edgar and her daughter, she says.
"My daughter means so much to me. I touch lives because of my daughter. I wish she could talk to me. I can understand my daughter better because I hear about how hard it is for Edgar."
Her goal now is to encourage others to look at those with special needs with different eyes. "Once you know," she says, "you can change your view."
I asked what people can do. She said, "Just give them a smile."