Defeat, resignation and inspiration

Published on
August 17, 2012

Defeat, resignation and inspiration are the three words that best describe those profiled in my project series, which looked into the challenges Latinos in Orange County face when trying to gain access to healthcare.

Defeated like Jose Diaz Garcia, who felt alone, abandoned, and left to fend for himself after being brutally beaten and left for dead in 2008, before finally receiving treatment at a free clinic in Orange County. 

Resigned like Clementina Sanchez, a single mother of one who supports her daughter and herself on $80 a week, who  gets treated for her diabetes at a free clinic in Orange County. 

Inspired like Alondra Campos, a diabetic who was almost completely blind, was turned away by many, before finding a non-profit in Orange County who helped return her eyesight. 

All are uninsured. But none are alone.

Clementina, Alondra and Jose are only three out of many uninsured Latinos living in Orange County and while their stories are heart wrenching, unfortunately, they aren’t unique to them. Sitting in a waiting room filled with uninsured people seeking treatment at the only free clinic in Orange County, I knew they were all constantly living in uncertainty when it came to medical care. What if they got sick? How would they pay for medicine? What if they needed an operation? Where would the money coming from?

The answer is uncertainty. Some are in major debt; some choose to ignore their ailments and choose to feed their children, instead. But they all manage, one way or the other.

I knew my biggest obstacle tackling this project was going to be getting people to open up about such a sensitive issue. However, I was determined and it paid off. I decided to engage people by talking to them instead of interviewing them. It was less intimidating for both parties and I think it made them more comfortable to open up. I was also surprised at how willing most people were to talk to me about their situations, almost as if I was a way of giving them a voice.  

Profiling the challenges uninsured Latinos in Orange County face while trying to gain access to health care was a no-brainer, to me. There is a large Latino community in that county, specifically in Santa Ana, and I knew that this series would hit home to many people there, especially since our readership consists largely of older Latino immigrants.

My advice to journalists looking to tackle similar projects is to not get discouraged and to challenge themselves. While things might get hard and frustrating, at times, having the support of the CEHJF mentors is a huge plus.

Working on this series reinforced how important it is to tell peoples’ stories, especially when the topic affects the community you serve. I know how much this series meant to those I profiled and I hope their stories were able to make a difference.

It was inspiring to see how despite their living situations, struggles and the hardships many I spoke to go through, living without medical insurance, they share a determination to keep moving forward and not let it control their lives.

That's an inspiration.