JOLIET – As she sat in a chair near the TV set in her family’s living room and listened to the weather report, Angie Sanchez of Joliet looked alarmed and started fanning herself.
It’s Sanchez’s way of telling her family hot weather is coming.
“I had to choose between remodeling or fixing the air conditioner,” said Sanchez’s mother and caretaker, Debbie Robertson. “I went with the air conditioner.”
Robertson has cared for Sanchez since 2007, when Sanchez had two strokes two months apart following the birth of her son, Jose. Robertson also cares for Jose, now 8. The family has begun a Go Fund Me account to raise $7,000 for a ramp and adaptive van so Sanchez finally can see the world again.
Dr. George Dietz, a home visiting family practice doctor based in Oak Park who sees Sanchez monthly, feels these items are important for Sanchez’s overall well-being. Except for hospitalizations, Sanchez has been housebound since her strokes.
“I think it’s kind of stupid to spend the rest of your life interacting with a TV set,” Dietz said.
Jose said he wants to take his mother to zoos and water parks, and can anticipate her delight at them.
“She’d probably laugh,” Jose said.
Although Dietz did not begin caring for Sanchez until April 2008, when she was 21, he said his records show Sanchez had her first stroke in May 2007 several days after giving birth. Sanchez came home in a wheelchair and had a second stroke July 2.
Sanchez returned to the hospital and had a shunt inserted in the left side of her brain to reduce pressure. When Dietz met Sanchez in 2008, she was receiving oxygen through a tracheostomy. In addition, Sanchez was receiving periodic treatment at what is now Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet for a bedsore.
“She could not blink; she could not say a word; and she could not move to any great extent,” Dietz said of that time.
Dietz noted that Sanchez also was of normal weight in 2008. Sanchez had weighed 300 pounds at the beginning of her pregnancy, according to Sanchez’s records, Dietz said, and had quit smoking around the time of her pregnancy. She initiated breastfeeding in the hospital.
Although stroke patients show the most improvement within the first two years following the stroke, Dietz is heartened by the progress Sanchez has shown since 2008. It took much effort, but Dietz said Sanchez finally was able to have in-home rehabilitation, which the mother is continuing on her own.
“The trick now is to get her [Sanchez] out of the house,” Dietz said.
Robertson clearly recalled the day of Sanchez’s second stroke. The family was having a barbecue at the house when Robertson said one of her sons noticed Sanchez was rocking. At the hospital, Robertson said Sanchez had a seizure and eventually slipped into a coma.
Annabel Sanchez of Joliet, Angie Sanchez’s sister, said Sanchez became alert when Annabel called out “Taco Bell,” a nickname the sisters shared between them.
“She squeezed my hand,” Annabel said. “I jumped in the air, I was so happy. I said, ‘Come on, Angie, squeeze my hand again.’ ”
And Angie did.
The present situation
While caring for Jose, Robertson also had to learn about PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) lines and giving nourishment through feeding tubes. She feeds, bathes and dresses her daughter, and gives her medication to control seizures and high blood pressure, and to prevent blood clots.
Now Robertson also is helping with efforts to raise the ramp money.
“We got fliers, and we went door-to-door,” Robertson said. “We put fliers all over, and we put it up on Facebook.”
Annabel feels community support would help Sanchez beyond her physical need for a ramp.
“It would show that she’s not alone, that people care,” Annabel said.
In April, Sanchez was back in the hospital to have an abscess on her skull drained.
Robertson said she has faith that God will continue to heal Sanchez. Annabel also feels further improvement is possible.
“Angie is strong,” Annabel said.
Even Dietz would agree with that.
“She’s out of bed; she takes steps; she says words; and she knows what’s going on,” Dietz said. “The next step is to get her out of that house.”
To help Angie Sanchez obtain her ramp and adaptive van, visit www.gofundme.com/angiehandicapramp.