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On Broken Backs (Part 2)

Fellowship Story Showcase

On Broken Backs (Part 2)

Picture of Cristina Londono

With the support of the Dennis Hunt Fund, a program of the Center for Health Journalism at USC. In Watsonville, Cristina Londoño, Noticias Telemundo.

Friday, December 22, 2017

25 year-old Basileo Hernandez is trying hard not to wail in front of his family.

This time, his back pain was so severe he lost movement in his legs and his brothers had to come get him.

Basileo Hernandez, "This time it made me cry, I can't lie to you. I felt like my back was tearing inside me."

He showed up at Carlos Torres's house like many others do: crawling in pain-in the middle of the night.

Carlos Torres, "They feel impotent and cry when they can't get up."

Because Carlos Torres hasn't been able to validate his medical degree from Mexico, they refer to him as "huesero" or "sobador"... terms he finds demeaning, because he has received many patients in bad shape from sobadores anda hueseros.

Carlos Torres: "They don't know anatomy, sometimes they tie them and pull at their extremities."

This sobador claims he's a certified masseuse, but like many in this un-regulated occupation, he says his talent is inherited.

Sobador, "It's from my family, my aunts, and uncles."

Despite the horror stories, they come hoping for relief.

Cristina Londoño - California Central Valley, "Sunday family outings to the flea market are common in working class Latino families. Businesses such as this one, show pain is part of their lives."

Client: "I feel better, like new, he has good hands."

Adolfo Miranda has medical insurance, but he came looking for a quicker solution.

Adolfo Miranda - construction worker: "It's a risk you take in the name of pain."

More than half of the patients who come to this medical office complaining about pain, say they their back is killing them.

But they usually seek help after trying other risky options.

Dr. Juan Posada-family doctor: "They get injections brought illegally from Mexico or Central America."

This activist has witnessed a more worrisome trend.

Luis Magaña - farmworkers voice: "They are using other illegal drugs, people are selling out in the fields, pills, cocaine, etcetera, so they produce more."

Farmworkers are many times the biggest abusers of their own selves.

Magaña: "They star exploiting their bodies, their conditions. Some with diabetes have collapsed and died in the fields."

Sacrifice is Basileos' mantra.

Basileo: "As long as god gives me life, and my back can take it."

[This story was originally published by Telemundo.]