What does Mission of Mercy mean to its many volunteers? To one particular volunteer, probably like many others, Mission of Mercy made his life meaningful and fulfilling. That volunteer was my husband, Luis Sanchez, who signed up for Mission of Mercy when were members of Christ the King Parish in Mesa at the time the Mesa location was starting.
My husband was excited about working as an interpreter helping medical staff and patients communicate even though it meant spending several hours brushing up on Spanish medical terms so that he could be effective and exacting in his work.
Louie, as he was called, took great pride in serving the people who came to Mission of Mercy. Many times after I picked him up at the end of his shift, he would say it had been a great morning because of the gratitude for medical help that the patients had expressed to him. He was always thrilled when one of their former patients would stop by the clinic just to say hi to him. Over the years he became friends with many patients, and, of course, other volunteers and medical staff.
As the years progressed, my husband faced a number of health challenges. One of the most frustrating challenges was that he was losing his hearing. Every two or three years, he insisted on learning about the latest developments in hearing aids and hearing assistive devices. He would inform the audiologists that he had to be able to hear because he had important, special work to do every Thursday morning at Mission of Mercy. Many Thursday afternoons we would head back to the hearing center so he could report how the newest device was working.
Along with his declining health came an increase in doctor appointments. I would make the appointments for him as he could not hear well on the telephone. Always he reminded me that he was not available on Thursday mornings as that was his Mission of Mercy time. When he had to be hospitalized, he would often ask the medical staff how long he was going to be out of commission explaining that he needed to get well as soon as possible so that he could return to “his” people at Mission of Mercy. A trip to the hospital for surgery would result in a stay at a rehab facility to get him back on his feet, literally and figuratively. He never lacked motivation to undergo two hours of physical and occupational therapy each day. He had to get moving so he could get back to Mission of Mercy.
The last 3 months of his life were difficult for him as he had broken his right femur and was in a brace from waist to toes 24 hours a day, every day. In his usual, positive approach, he talked about getting stronger and being able to walk again with his walker. Why? Because his goal was to return to his work as an interpreter at Mission of Mercy even though he was 86 years old living as a cancer and stroke survivor with heart disease and diabetes. He knew the value of excellent medical care and wanted to do his part to make sure those who could not afford medical care could still receive it.
Louie died on June 28th this year after having served approximately 18 years with Mission of Mercy. What is interesting is that my husband should have died 14-15 years ago when he suffered a silent heart attack that destroyed one-third of his heart. Another remarkable fact is that for the past two and one-half years, Louie’s heart was only functioning at 15% of its capacity.
I believe Louie’s determination to serve others kept him alive much longer than his doctors expected. Had his heart not given out two weeks after coming home from eleven weeks of rehab, I know that my husband would be working hard in therapy to get back to his job at Mission of Mercy.
Louie died my hero, although he would never claim to be a hero. He saw himself as a regular guy just trying to help others in a small way to live productive and healthy lives. What does Mission of Mercy mean to its volunteers? For some, like my husband, it can be a lifeline that keeps them going in spite of the many challenges they face.
† In blessed memory. June 28, 2016