While others joyfully celebrated Christmas, a woman sobbed uncontrollably in a dimly light shed pleading with God to spare the life of her youngest son. That woman was my mother and this is my story…
Born the youngest of three sons in the city of Cuenca, Ecuador in 1965, my life has been a special gift of trial and triumph for my humble and loving family and me. Despite trials faced, I am convinced my arrival into this world has followed the perfect plan of God.
Growing up in a third world country, even today, one in three births will result in the tragedy of a preventable birth defect.
In 1965, a terrible epidemic of polio struck the village of Gil Ramirez Davalos of Cuenca resulting in the loss of life for 80% of the population three years and under. Only nine months old at the time, my parents began to notice a decline in my health.
High fevers, vomiting, difficulty breathing plus other aches and pains began to ravage my little body. Concerned, my parents took me to a local hospital whereupon they received a diagnosis of advanced poliomyelitis.
This disease had so compromised my muscular and nervous system doctors recommended an urgent transfer to a Military Hospital in the city of Quito.
One day’s journey by car over primitive roads high up in the Andes, the trip to Quito presented additional problems for my poor parents since they were without transportation. The solution was a long and arduous bus trip with a listless and dying baby in their arms.
My older brothers left in the care of paternal grandparents waved good-bye as we departed for Ecuador’s capitol city. Little did anybody realize then that this would be
the last time we would all be together as a family for three years!
Upon arrival to the Quito, the hospital denied me access to the facility. With limited knowledge of polio’s epidemiology, doctors and nurses mistakenly thought this disease highly contagious.
My father’s insistence resulted in a small tool shed adapted as a space to isolate and accommodate me. Evidently, a critical and irreversible paralysis had set in and they expected I would not survive the night.
While waiting in that dusty and dimly light tool shed, my mother, a devoted Catholic, started praying to God for a miracle. Her simple prayer was in exchange for my healing we would both serve Him all the days of our lives.
After several days of anxious waiting, the fever finally broke. Though immobilized physically, little by little, I began to move my head from side to side.
Miraculously the polio had stopped spreading throughout my body and the doctors were so encouraged they no longer considered me contagious, accepting me into the hospital for further treatment after all. This initial step was the beginning of a gigantic process that resulted in years of surgical treatments, physical therapy and other medical interventions.
Almost seven years later, finally released from the hospital and permitted to move home with my family I had managed to take my first steps with the aid of crutches. Pant-like metal braces were required to support my body weight. These fit my legs from the foot to the hips while bolting my feet firmly onto a board about hip distance apart.
This apparatus enabled a scooting motion with the aid of two crutches while dragging my two feet along. What a beautiful new lease on life this mobility provided me as doors of opportunity began slowly opening.
I will always remember the joy of being able to play, speak and interact with other children on my first day of school! In the beginning, some of the children were very uncomfortable with my robotic-like appearance and the fact that I was older than the rest of the class.
Nevertheless, they ultimately came to accept me for who I was inside and out, as I became one of them. Thanks to the unconditional support of my loving family, I have never really compared myself to anybody else; in fact, I was encouraged to see myself as very special.
Their gift of good self-esteem has helped me to accept myself for the unique creation of God that I am. With this healthy role model, my outlook has been to love myself as I am despite any physical limitations and differences.
Because I could only move my arms at the time, my mother brought me an old, blue transistor radio that broadcast a.m. stations to help wile away long, bedridden hours
During this time I experienced my first encounter with music; spending whole afternoons flipping dials and humming along to the diverse tunes of Bach, Pink Floyd, Julio Jaramillo, Flamenco, Piero, Beatles, Mozart, Piazzolla, Beethoven, Yes, Los Panchos, Deep Purple, etc. etc. You name any tune and I probably listened to it!
After listening to my dad play his guitar, I must say that time stood still for me! The magical sound and timbre of the guitar strings vibrating were heavenly music to my ears.
It was then that I fell madly in love with that beautiful woman, the guitar, and have remained captivated by her charms to this day. My dad, a self-taught guitarist helped me to master the various chords for playing rhythm guitar but it was not long before my abilities expended his expertise.
Then that he enrolled me in the National Conservatory of Music of Quito, where after eleven years of study I started my career as a Classical Guitarist.
Though unable to run and jump, the guitar has afforded me the ability to run with my fingers instead. God has been very good to me in my musical pursuits. I have been able to play before heads of state in Ecuador and abroad, having the pleasure of meeting many wonderful, accomplished musicians along the way.
As in Ecuador, here in the United States, I am a Classical Guitar teacher and performer.
Formerly a member of The Baltimore Classical Guitar Society’s Guitar Orchestra provided an opportunity to hear and meet with such guitar greats John Williams, Pepe Romero, Manuel Barrueco, Paco de Lucia, the Assad Brothers: Sergio and Odair, Paco Peña, and Sharon Isbin.
Today I consider myself a survivor of Post Polio Syndrome using only a single brace on my right leg.
Thanks be to God I have a Guitar Studio in Bel Air Maryland, where I teach young people and children how to play Classical Guitar, as well as, serving as a music minister.
These things would not have been possible without faithful love and mercy of God for He has held me close to His heart during the times I felt alone or discouraged along the way.
Next I must recognize the total and unconditional endorsement of my dear parents and older brothers. They believed in me and always my encouraged me to be the very best and to follow my dreams.
Lastly, I’d like to thank the many good friends made here in the United States, such as, Maria Sasso, Gerry Wambolt, Fr Richard Gray and Deborah Happy, without them my tenure here in the US would have been cut short.
It is my hope that the people whom I encounter will love more and remember me in a sweet way not because of what I have, but because of who I AM. Day by day, I try to improve in my interior and achieve what I can do to help others for it is these things deserving of any prestige, respect and acceptance.