I have lived with chronic debilitating illnesses most of my life.
I’m a Latina born in the United States to a Colombian mother and a Puerto Rican father. I was in and out of hospitals for asthma attacks since I was a baby. When I was 15 years old, the doctors found a pituitary adenoma (benign brain tumor). As a result, I have hormonal imbalances and visual camp problems.
A few years after law school, I was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease, and eventually the doctors found I had 4 other autoimmune diseases. (I’m a bit of an over-achiever.)
My poor health has never stopped me from following my dreams and pursuing what I wanted to do. I was blessed to attend Cornell University and Georgetown University Law School on scholarships.
In August of 2000, in the midst of my career as a public defender, I went to the hospital for routine medical care. I was supposed to be discharged in 2 to 3 days. Instead I ended up in a coma and with an iatrogenic brain injury.
The very doctors who were entrusted with my care caused the brain injury. They changed my life forever — I could not walk, talk, or take care of myself.
From a medical standpoint, I was permanently disabled.
It took 6 years of inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, but I managed to volunteer again doing health care law.
I quickly realized this wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I knew I wanted to share my story, the devastating and the inspirational parts. I wanted to help people see that obstacles didn’t have to stop them from pursuing their dreams. I also knew that what happened to me could be avoided.
In thinking about my brain injury, I perceived a fundamental problem with communication between clinicians and the patient.
After doing research, I was inspired to return to school in 2012. I found the Narrative Medicine program at Columbia University and in 2014, I received a Master’s in Science.
I now teach narrative medicine at the CUNY School of Medicine.
In 2006, I married Terrence, the man that was my boyfriend when I suffered the brain injury, and in 2008 we had a miracle baby, Isabella.
I hope my story inspires others to stop putting off their dreams for tomorrow.
I am a person with disabilities who wakes up every day thankful to be alive and excited to see what the day will bring.