Rescue, Stabilize and Transform
I am a volunteer with Wings of Angels Foundation and I attended a clinic they held in 2005. That day a boy came to the clinic without arms. His father brought him from Vera Cruz because someone told him Wings of Angels would help him. I leapt to my feet and called out “….this one is mine”.
Martin was playing on a roof carrying a long metal post. Suddenly the electrocution happened, searing his arms and exiting through a leg at the knee. Neighbors rushed to help but it was fifteen minutes before the power was disconnected. As the host of many dramas to come, Martin somehow lived through this event. He was rushed to Vera Cruz were surgeon Dr. Maximilliano Chimalpopoca did procedures to save his life and what was left of his functioning body. How was it that this child could endure the devastating pain?
Xrays provided information about where arteries were sound in each arm and it was at that point the burned limbs were removed. The doctor thoughtfully provided a Power Point presentation for subsequent medical personnel to have full knowledge of the case.
The child survived and returned home. Another life blow hit as the mother abandoned any interest in the child and left the home. The father, Martin Choncoa, was to rise as the indefatigable hero. Calling for help from his friends Rafael and Claudia, far away in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Martin and his father made the 36-hour bus trip. They were received warmly. Claudia soon began schooling Martin in daily classes although Martin could not hold a pencil or write. The senior Martin, fighting daily tears, searched for help and found it from the town’s young physical therapist Fernando Vasquez. In his call to us, Fernando said “this is the last patient you will receive tonight and he is the most important patient you will ever treat. Please do not leave without seeing him. We will be there shortly.”
Collecting our wits, we formed a plan. The first support would come from Sander Nassan, founder and benefactor of Prosthetics, Orthotics, Associates (POA) of Scottsdale, Arizona. Martin’s trip to Phoenix would be an all-in-one, preparing and fitting a mechanical arm. Octavio Torres, teen son of the Wings of Angels Sonoran Crisis Intervention Clinic Director asked to travel with Martin and introduce him to what life is like in the US for a kid. They had carte blanche at the hotel which provided a free room, a credit card for video games Martin played with his feet, and at night all-you-can-eat at Red Lobster or Chili’s or Olive Garden.
Next, it was necessary to treat the damage done by the exiting current. His leg was locked at 45 degrees. Monte Hessler, chiropractor and trainer for the San Francisco Giants, took a look at the leg and recruited plastic surgeon Dr. Ian Parker and the Specialty Surgical Center to repair the problem, all donated services. A nurse confided to us that during recovery Martin called out again and again for his mother.
Monte took his friendship for Martin a step farther and asked third baseman Pedro Feliz to welcome Martin and Octavio to the Giant’s bench on game night. Carlos Chavez of the Arizona Republic filmed that event and the surgery. By this time Martin was attaining fame in Phoenix as newspapers acclaimed this kid’s spirit and the generosity of local surgeons, the surgical hospital and the skilled prosthesis expert who built Martin’s mechanical arm.
Time went by. Martin entered school and had no difficult participating. He won student of the year and a little scholarship. Now that the leg was normal, he could run and play soccer.
Martin senior became a reliable worker within the Agua Prieta municipal workforce and established such a relationship that he and his son received a tiny (140sf) full-service home as a part of the municipal plan to place especially deserving residents in suitable homes. Wings of Angels added 400sf more.
Then the world collapsed. Martin entered a deep depression as his teen boy hormones raced and he said “no woman will ever love me because I do not have arms…” This went on and on and we were very concerned yet quite helpless. We established the Saturday Art Class for disabled children and adults, in part to prepare Martin for a possible future in architecture or engineering. His first art (enhanced by the artist and class instructor Abel Verdin) was sold after many escalating offers to purchase were considered. One Saturday morning turning the corner to the art class, I spied Martin necking with a girl outside. I cheered, the black days were over!
Fast forward: Martin joined the Youth group at a local Catholic parish and sings in the choir. He earned a scholarship for high school, and announced to El Imparcial, the local newspaper, that he was planning a career in architecture. Scholarships for this endeavor (three years out) will surely flood in for this magnificent child who has brought us years of nearly inexpressible joy.