It’s a foggy day in Los Angeles, as Julia Rodriguez and I sit down to speak about what brought her family to YouCaring. She shows me a recent family photo. In it, I see her with husband Marcus, and their two children Journey, 3, and Caleb, 5. This photo will become a thank you card the family is sending to the 200+ individuals who have donated over $60,000 to their son’s medical and recovery fund.
As Marcus and Julia share their story, a strong wind blows open the windows. As the rain drops begin to fall, everyone marvels at the gust of wind that fills the room, adding another hint of flavor to the tears and laughter that already saturate the air.
“What happened to Caleb?” I ask.
Marcus begins, “Caleb had hypoglycemic seizures one night in January, 2015. When we woke up [he was unconscious, and stayed] in a coma for 2 days. When he came [out of it] he could not move his limbs or swallow. He experienced severe traumatic brain injury and blindness. He developed seizures. [Sometimes as many as] 20-100 a day. He began to scream.”
As Marcus shares, he holds Caleb, who, after a light screaming fit has calmed down, and is watching a video his favorite, Finding Nemo.
“Caleb was born in 2010 in Shanghai and had hypoglycemia. After spending two months in NICU, he developed as a healthy boy. At 4 years and three months he was speaking three languages and playing soccer. He was a little daredevil. When this seizure happened at night, we weren’t aware of it, and found him unconscious the next morning.”
Marcus enthusiastically shares that Caleb has recently began to use his hands again. This is possible due to intensive therapy the family can afford with the donations raised on YouCaring.
Marcus explains, “People were asking, ‘how can I help?’ My dad was sending monthly updates to people who knew that I was in graduate school and that there would be financial needs.”
“What’s been the toughest part of fundraising?” I ask.
“What’s not easy is the emotional aspect of telling the story. To put ourselves out there is a big step for us.”
“How did you overcome it?” I inquire.
“I went to Starbucks and I cried,” Marcus says smiling.
“I validated him,” Julia adds.
“What did you say?”
“This is a really brave thing we are doing. And it’s really hard.” Julia shares.
Neither one of them could have imagined the journey they could go on, when they met years ago. Marcus moved to China to do mission work right after college. While he was teaching English at a university, he sought out a local Mandarin teacher and found Julia. Years later, his tutor has become his partner and wife and here they are, supporting each other in raising a family.
“What would you like people to know?” I ask.
Julia gets choked up for just a moment, and then gracefully replies, “Nothing could express our gratitude. Really, what people’s help on YouCaring means to me is that people understood our pain and our struggles. I feel very validated. I feel very understood. I think they really love us and love Caleb. They want to see him doing better. They want to see our whole family do better.”
To learn more about Caleb and the Rodriguez family and donate to their campaign go here.