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Easter Seals provides exceptional services, education, outreach, and advocacy so that people living with autism and other disabilities can live, learn, work and play in our communities.

Eduardo's Story of Hope

"Maricela Came To Save My Life"

Eduardo's Story of HopeEduardo is a reserved 17-year-old. He likes to see people’s hearts and get to know their feelings. An aspiring chef, Eduardo loves to cook, and will even share a recipe for his Spanish Rice: “Fry the rice, tomatoes and some onions with garlic, water and salt. Then you add chicken broth, cover and cook, and you’ll have the best Spanish Rice you’ve ever had.” Eduardo has neurofibromatosis, a condition causing an abnormal curvature of the spine. After two surgeries to place metal plates in his back, Eduardo has limited mobility but has returned to school where he is in 11th grade.

Maricela Romero is Eduardo’s Easter Seals respite care provider. “She’s nice. We go out for a walk or go to the store. And she helps me keep my room clean,” says Eduardo of Maricela.

Maricela has been providing respite for the Eduardo's family for the past four months. This extra support comes as a great relief for Eduardo’s mother, Maria, who has cared for her son through the complications from his surgeries related to his disability.

Initially skeptical about receiving help from any organization, Maria received no respite in 2006 when Eduardo had his first surgery. The family qualified for only 24 hours of care per month, and Maria knew she needed much more than that. “I needed a lot of help caring for my son.” She worried that building a relationship with the caregiver would prove impossible if she/he were there only 24 hours a month.

Maria explained that it is especially difficult for Hispanics to build trust in situations like this. “We come from a country where there is no help…when you think of allowing someone to come into your house, you’re letting them into your whole life. You’re offering your trust and everything…a lot of Hispanics don’t know services are available. There’s a shortage of bilingual services and it’s often assumed that a program is for English speaking families only.”

Due to the generous support of donors and the San Andreas Regional Center, Easter Seals is able to place respite providers like Maricela with Spanish-speaking families. Maricela wants to learn English, and loves being with Eduardo's family. She said that when she first met Eduardo she knew immediately that she could help him.

Maricela has three children of her own and a fourth child whom she fostered and later adopted. She clearly has a heart for the work she does. “When I first came and saw Eduardo he was just out of surgery and was very thin. I fell in love with him immediately and felt that I could help him. I felt that I could contribute to his recovery and that I could do a lot for him. I offered the family my hard work but I wanted to be that person who helps you in so many ways,” she recently told Easter Seals with tears in her eyes.

Maricela does help Eduardo's family in a multitude of ways. She brings happiness and laughter to a household that needs the relief.

“Eduardo waits for Maricela at the door when it’s time for her to come,” says Maria. “He has to be the one to open the door for her when she arrives.” Maria can’t say enough about the role Maricela has played in her family’s life.

"She came to literally save my life," says Maria. "I was in a deep hole with all of the stress. Maricela’s intentions were that she really wanted to help. She really wanted to offer her love. I’m happy most of the time when Maricela is here because she has such a happy presence.”

Maria and Maricela have formed an incredible bond during the relatively short time they have known each other. Throughout the interview for this article, the two held hands and cried. Maria says, “Maricela and Eduardo have a fun time and laugh…so that makes me happy too. Every time they are laughing and having fun, I want to get close to them so I can laugh too.”

Even though Maricela’s hours will be fewer now that Eduardo is back in school, she plans to stay with Easter Seals because she knows other children need her and she can help them.

As for the up-and-coming chef, Maria says that after Eduardo graduates from high school she will do whatever it takes to send him to chef’s school. “Of course I will miss him when he grows up, even though I have another child. He’s a very loving kid. I don’t want to have to think about him going away,” she says with a smile.

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