August 11, 2006

The power of a dream: Life-changing journey touches family and community

By John Shaughnessy

She never thought her dream would end this way.

When Rocio Camacho moved from Mexico to the United States, she came with the American dream that generations of immigrants have embraced: the desire for a better life, including an education for her child and a house for her family.

Her dream didn’t include the nightmare of being homeless or watching her son struggle with a life-threatening illness.

Her dream didn’t involve undergoing surgery in an Indianapolis hospital, risking her health to try to save the life of her only child.

Still, as Rocio now knows as well as anyone, the power of a dream—and the power of a parent’s love—can lead us on journeys that extend far beyond moving to another country.

They can lead us on journeys that test our hearts, our souls and our faith.

Dreams and nightmares

Tears often fill Rocio’s eyes as she shares the story of the life-changing journey for her and her son.

Her story begins six years ago when she moved from Mexico to Colorado to pursue her version of the American dream. She soon found a job in a Denver factory, which allowed her to send money home to her parents in Mexico, who were caring for her son, Luis. She soon began to fall in love with an immigrant from El Salvador, Jose Camacho.

One of the things Rocio loved about Jose was that he understood her plan to bring Luis to the United States—to make a better life for him and her.

The plan began to take shape three years after Rocio first arrived in Denver. Yet a month after Luis joined her in America in 2003, the usually energetic, then-11-year-old boy became weak and tired, and his skin turned yellow.

Rocio rushed him to a hospital. She couldn’t speak English. Neither could Luis. She also didn’t have health insurance. She believes that’s why the hospital didn’t care for Luis, even though tests showed he had a kidney problem.

Still, her son’s condition drew the attention of a sympathetic Denver pediatrician who believed Luis needed dialysis treatments. The doctor searched for a hospital that would help Luis. The doctor found one in Indianapolis—Riley Hospital for Children.

While Jose stayed in Denver to work, Rocio and Luis boarded a bus bound for Indianapolis, a bus ride that would take 36 hours.

“We didn’t know anyone,” Rocio recalls. “We didn’t know where to go or what to do. We were scared. That’s when the angels began to help us and guide us.”

Finding a home

As Rocio and Luis prepared to leave Denver, the helpful doctor contacted the Mexican consulate’s office in Indianapolis, hoping someone could help the mother and son find a place to stay.

Every appeal the consulate made was turned down until a call was placed to Bill Bickel, the director of Holy Family Shelter and Holy Family Transitional Housing, part of Catholic Charities Indianapolis.

“No one would take them,” Bickel recalls. “Our feeling is you don’t deny services because of a lack of language. You find resources.”

Bickel made a home for Rocio and Luis at Holy Family. He continued to provide a home while Luis had dialysis treatments twice a day for 18 months at Holy Family.

“I don’t think I could have found a better place,” Rocio says. “The angels were there ahead of me. I was there for four weeks before Jose was able to come join us. It was also near St. Patrick’s (a parish on the south side of Indianapolis.) We were also part of the community at St. Patrick’s.”

The Camacho family would need that community when doctors determined that Luis needed a kidney transplant. Rocio immediately knew that she would be the one who would give a kidney to Luis. What she didn’t know was how her family would pay for the $75,000 cost of the operation.

A community of angels

“I wondered what options I would have to pay for the surgery,” Rocio recalls. “But God provides. He surrounded us with all these people to help us.”

Bickel remembers how the Indianapolis community responded at the time of the transplant in February 2005. Churches held fundraisers. Businesses made contributions. Someone donated a car to be auctioned. The money was raised.

“It was a remarkable community-wide effort,” he says. “Not just the Hispanic community, not just the Catholic community, but the whole community.”

People also prayed for the success of the transplant. Rocio said her own prayers. Then she delivered a pep talk to Luis before the surgery.

“I knew Luis was very nervous,” she recalls. “I told him, ‘This is the moment of your new life, and you need to take it. We’re going to have a new life together.’ ”

The surgery lasted four hours. At the end of it, Rocio told Luis, “Your life will be different now.”

The dream comes true

That different life is noticeable in the summer of 2006.

Luis leads an active life again. Now 14, he enjoys swimming, playing football and being with his friends. He hopes to make more friends as he soon begins his freshman year at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis. He also dreams of becoming a doctor, wanting “to help others like they helped me.”

“My life is good now,” he says. “I’m happy.”

Jose supports the family by working in construction.

“I’ve always thought that Luis has angels with him,” Rocio says. “Jose is one of the greatest angels we have. Although he’s not Luis’ father per se, he deserves to be.”

The family feels so blessed that they plan to participate in the Walk for Families on Aug. 26—a fundraiser for Catholic Charities Indianapolis. It’s their way of saying thanks for being given a home at Holy Family when they desperately needed it.

“I have so many people to thank,” Rocio says. “I need to do this. In these difficult times today, people need to know that there are other people and resources to help them.”

Earlier this year, Rocio, Jose and Luis moved into their own home, part of the dream Rocio always imagined. She glows when she talks about her kitchen and the changes they have made to their Indianapolis home. Still, she is the first to point out that her family’s version of the American dream has changed.

“The dream we had in the beginning was to have a house,” Rocio says. “But when Luis got sick, that dream changed to Luis having life. Now that Luis has life, we feel we’re living more of a normal life. We’re a very happy family. We have a great son, and God is always with us.” †


Local site Links: