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Bring Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Sick and Injured

Casa Juan Diego is a busy place..

A nurse called today from Ben Taub Hospital to tell us to be nice to Pedro—he had lost all of his fingers on one hand in an accident and wasn’t handling it too well. He was injured in an accident in southern Louisiana. No hospital there had the staff to work with him.

Upon arriving at the men’s house to advise of his coming, we met a new guest, Juan, who extended his hand when introduced. He, too, had no fingers, having lost his fingers in an accident. He offered a stub instead of a hand.

If you saw Luis approach Casa Juan Diego, you could not figure out the problem. You might have thought he was drunk, as he stumbled from car to car seeking support so as not to fall. After going from clinging to cars he moved to hugging the walls of our building. We went outside to figure out what was going on and to catch him after he fell—drunk or sober.

Luis was very sober. Apparently he had lost his legs—below the knee—from a train accident, and the artificial legs that he was given weren’t strong enough to carry his weight, and they became more and more useless and wobbly.

He obviously needed new legs. He went to a prosthetic company and was told that the legs would cost $2,500 each. We always have an amputee at a prosthetic company.

Things seem to come in pairs.

Ruben arrived with very serious eye problems. He says that one eye is gone and that he is afraid of losing the other. It doesn’t look good. An operation is hoped for.

Roberto has lost his sight very suddenly and it is not clear what the source of the problem is. The guess is all the way from malnutrition to alcoholism. It is quite a challenge to receive medical care because when he first went to the hospital through the emergency room, people at the place where he was staying threw out all of his papers.

Jorge arrived with two colostomy bags instead of a stomach, etc. This always frightens us. Some of the young Catholic Workers wanted to put him to bed and not allow him to move, since he was obviously seriously ill or had been. They insisted that he go to the sick men’s house at once, which declares him very sick and unable to work.

The guest rebelled and demanded that he be allowed to help with the work in the house and not just sit around. He was not an invalid. After enough pampering, he insisted on going to work as a member of our co-op, which he did. He is one of the best workers, colostomy bags or no bags.

The Immigration section of Homeland Security called to see if we had room for several guests who were being released. This is one of the great paradoxes of Casa Juan Diego. One day we receive people from Immigration, the next day we join our brothers and sisters in custody.

We received a call from Ben Taub saying that Jose De Leon was dying and we should get over there if we wanted to see him. He supposedly lived in one of the sick men’s houses before being hospitalized. No one recognized his name, all saying that there was no such man here.

We visited Jose, the dying man, and asked why the men in the sick men’s house didn’t recognize his name. “What is your name?” we asked. “Chihuahua,” he responded. All the men recognized him by his nickname.

We received a call from a Catholic parishioner regarding a young immigrant woman who was raped by the coyote who brought her to the United States and now was pregnant. This situation had a happy ending. The caller had helped the young woman, who decided to place the child for adoption. However, in this process, the caller’s son got to know the pregnant woman and they became engaged. The young man and his fiancée decided to keep the child. The caller was not asking for a place for her to stay, only a clinic that could provide prenatal care at a reasonable cost.

At 9:00 p.m. we received a call from El Salvador from a friend of Frank Cordaro in Iowa, friend of his who is working in Central America. He was calling for a very worried woman from El Salvador whose husband had been Houston for a month or so. He had been unable to find work and was homeless and hungry. Could we take him in? We said yes.

Our guests, men, women, and children, arrive dehydrated, exhausted, their feet and legs full of thorns from the journey. They don’t rest long though, before seeking work.

A doctor called from another state asking if we could accept an undocumented immigrant with meningitis. We asked if he was contagious. The doctor responded by saying only if we had sex with him, which was the doctor’s way of saying that the man was HIV positive. The young man arrived, but was at death’s door. We were really worried. He came to us because there was no Casa Juan Diego in his state.

The Ben Taub emergency room has been calling us about a patient who was found on the street, disoriented and wearing a diaper. Could we help, as he doesn’t like wearing diapers.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXVI, No. 5, September-October 2006.