Being diagnosed with a serious illness can change a person’s life.
Between a battery of tests and discomfort in the present and a sudden uncertainty in the future, things can get complicated and scary.
Things can also get complicated and scary for those not on the hospital bed, too — something the Escamilla family of Tooele knows all too well, with two of the family’s daughters .
“I just wish my sisters would get sick less,” said 16-year-old Jose. “I just wish they would get better.”
The family is the Tooele Transcript Bulletin’s 2014 Benefit Fund Family. With a little help from its readers, the Transcript Bulletin hopes to make this Christmas a little merrier for a family that has battled its way through a tough year battered and bruised — and is stronger for it.
In February, 13-year-old Maria, who was then still 12, began experiencing extreme stomachaches, and spent the next seven months in a series of doctor appointments, ambulance rides, hospital stays, medical tests and ineffective medication before being diagnosed with endometriosis.
Just as Maria was starting to feel better, Rosa, now 11, began experiencing unquentiable thirst and frequent urinary tract infections. Just after Halloween, she was diagnosed with diabetes.
During the year, Jose and 15-year-old Angel, both watching their sisters and parents struggle this year, have come into their own as pillars of stability in the family.
“We don’t really think about it much,” Jose said. “We just do it.”
Jose, a sophomore at Tooele High School and a member of its wrestling team, and Angel, a freshman at THS who has recently taken up tumbling, are just 10 months apart in age, making them more like twins than typical brothers.
Their current interests have similarities in physical fitness and ability, and their future plans have common elements as well: When Jose grows up, he wants to be a K-9 handler, while Angel wants to join the U.S. Marine Corps.
This year, their unity has been in helping pick up whatever pieces of life their parents and sisters might have dropped in the chaos.
“We’re like sisters. We help our mom and dad,” Angel said. “If they need something, we get it.”
Mother Wendy said the boys have risen to the challenge like champs.
“They’ve been good. It’s been hard on them. We’ve had to sacrifice a lot. They worry about their sisters a lot,” she said. “Sometimes I feel bad, because it’s not their responsibility. But they’ve stepped up to the plate when they were needed.”
In many ways, she said, the trials over the last year have turned them from kids to strong young adults.
“They have grown into wonderful young men. They’re very responsible, very caring, very protective of their sisters,” Wendy said.
The boys, and Wendy’s 24-year-old daughter, Chelsea, who lived with the family until recently, have been huge helps in keeping the family together, Wendy said, and the family has also forged stronger bonds through their troubles. Still, troubles remain.
The dual medical challenges prompted Wendy to quit her job to have more time to care for Maria, taking the family down to one income, and dad Jose’s wages at Utah Industrial Depot have been garnished for the medical bills, further stretching the family’s dollar. Wendy said the family’s financial situation has really made them tighten their belts so much it hurts.
“It’s like we have to pick and choose what we pay for this week,” she said.
The kids, though, have been understanding of the family’s financial situation, the elder Jose said, even as Christmas approaches.
“They don’t say anything,” he said. “We know they want things, but they understand we have bills to pay.”
The boys wear a lot of hoodies and sweatpants, their parents say, while the girls like wearing leggings. Jose and Angel wear medium sweats, large shirts and size 7-1/2 men’s shoes. Maria wears large women’s shirts and size 7-1/2 women’s shoes, and Rosa wears girl’s extra-large shirts and size 3 shoes.
Donations can be dropped off at the Transcript Bulletin’s business office at 58 N. Main Street, Tooele, by Dec. 23. They can also be mailed to: Transcript Bulletin Benefit Fund, P.O. Box 390, Tooele, Utah 84074.