You Can Fight It, Don’t Let It Beat You

The following is a first-person account from Jesus Perez, a longtime member of the Coalition on Homelessness, on a recent health episode and its ensuing hospitalization. It is also a story of resilience. To donate to Jesus’s recovery fund, go to

At first, when I went to the Coalition on Homelessness Board of Director’s meeting, I was okay, but then when I came to the office I started having this pain, and I didn’t know what is was. So I tried to call people and I called my coworker Nick, and he guided me and called the ambulance. He kept telling me through the phone to keep breathing, even though it was really hard to breath. When the paramedics arrived I couldn’t go down the stairs to open the door so they had to break in.

Well they started putting IVs on me and oxygen and everything; they took me down in a gurney and put me in the ambulance. Then I went to the emergency hospital and they had me in the ICU and then right away they took me to put a thing in my heart, a stint (points the stint) so that my vessels don’t get clogged up. It felt terrible (laughs). Then I started taking medicine, and they started checking on me to see how I was, and then they made sure my breathing was okay and everything. After the stent was put in I got an infection, an ammonia infection, and then they treated that with medicine. The nurses and doctors were making sure my health was good, making sure I didn’t die (laughs). And I had visitors, many of my friends, coworkers, and my family all came to visit me.

The worst part was having to go through all these tests, mostly checking on my heart, doing X-rays and that kind of thing. The best part was when I got to go home.

But when I was home, I had a stroke on Memorial Day in May. I was home and doing good and I was able to shower on my own, eat my own lunch and meals, I was able to breathe. When I had the stroke I really didn’t know I had it until the next day when I started feeling nauseous so I took a Tylenol. Then the next day, my granddaughter saw my speech get bad, and my face started to droop so she called my daughter, and my daughter told her to call the ambulance. I went to Sutter then, and they gave me an IV and kept monitoring my heart then after that I had to do an MRI to make sure my brain wasn’t damaged or anything and that came out good, and then they did another chest Xray to see if my heart was okay (it was). And then the only thing I didn’t like was that my arms were all bruised up from them sticking needles in me to draw blood for tests. They could hardly find veins to draw blood because they were swollen up so much.

After they knew I was okay they sent me to the rehab program. In therapy they put weights on my legs and make me do leg lifts, put weights on my arms that I have to lift, and they give me little three pound weights and make me push my fists forward. I have to do reps of 20 three times. They make me walk too, but my walk is pretty okay, my heart rate just shoots up a lot, so I have to take rests when I walk. This is an experience that is hard for me and I want to let other people know if they have a heart attack or stroke, it takes a while to heal but you gotta keep fighting to heal yourself up. But nothing like this has ever happened to me before so this is a new experience for me. And I just want everyone to know they can fight it and don’t get beat down, you just gotta work with it, cuz it’s a really hard thing. Don’t put yourself down, you can heal! And well, I’m asking for donations so I can get some equipment. I need a walker with a seat so I can put my oxygen inside, I need a shower bench, and I need a little monitor they put in my finger to check my heart rate.