Having a sick relative or loved one is difficult. But when you’re a college student, coping the best you know how, the pressure is more than one could imagine.
Claudia Garcia, a sophomore of Tyler Junior College, who cares for her 14-year-old brother, knows this feeling.
“Many years before I started college my brother Roberto got sick, at 9 months, after a day of playing in the water at Lake Palestine in 1998,” said Garcia. “Since then he developed a severe medical condition which affected his motor skills, his internal organs and his general quality of life. It was hard on his body and even harder for us to see him so weak.”
Garcia said her brother quickly developed symptoms similar to that of the common cold, but within a few weeks and after a trip to the doctor, his condition worsened.
“After only a short time, I remember my mother flying to a Dallas hospital with my brother. He was in a coma for many weeks,” said Garcia. “It was a really tough situation when the doctors finally told my mother that they would have to disconnect him and that he probably wouldn’t have a good life.”
Garcia and her family were determined to see Roberto get better. They stuck by his side until he showed signs of slow recovery.
“After two months at the children’s hospital, he was out of the coma, but seeing that he couldn’t even hold his neck, it was so hard,” said Garcia.
Roberto’s road to recovery would be long and hard. He needed time to heal and to adjust. There were still concerns about his future health.
“Now his lungs are weak and he has a lot of bladder problems. He gets sick really easy this time of year, when the weather changes, due to a low immune system. We have to be really precautious about his health,” said Garcia.
Garcia said it is hard to help care for her brother, keep her grades up, and that she would appreciate extra time on assignments or other accommodations.
“It’s hard on my schooling when he’s in the hospital because I have to often put off classes to translate for my mother during the day so she understands what the doctors are saying. It is always a really stressful time for me, but I don‘t have anywhere to turn for help or time on assignments.”
Shelley Caraway, an Interim Dean at TJC, said that before a support service program can be implemented, there has to be a need and request made by a student seeking help.
“There are a lot of support services currently available on campus for students free of charge. We have a testing center. We also offer tutoring as well as counseling,” said Caraway.
She added that students need to evaluate realistically how much time that they feel they are going to put into taking college classes.
“If a student needs to come to college as a part-time student while they are juggling multiple responsibilities, I think that it’s a responsible decision to make. Taking less classes will eliminate a layer of stress from your life,” said Caraway.
Michele Knox, former support service worker and Perkins Data/Grant Coordinator of Adult Student Services, said that she was unsure if TJC offered anything that would help a student with family medical issues.
“I understand that there are different students out there trying to balance a family, school and work, but you have to find the plan that works for you. Whatever works for one might not work for the other. I see the problems from the students who come through my office and I’m willing to help them if I can,” said Knox. “It’s very important to sit down and talk with that student and seeing what their needs are.”
Diego Loya, a sophomore at TJC, recalls seeing situations where students needed a little extra time due to family issues, adding later that he is willing to help in anyway he can.
“It really doesn’t make me feel very good that students don’t get the help they need. I wish that there would be more people willing to help, not saying that one person can’t do it by themselves, but it’s always better when more people are involved,” Loya said. “It’s what we are all here for, to help.”
The Garcia family members are slowly adjusting to the changes in their lives. Claudia thinks of her brother’s condition not as a curse, but as a blessing.
“With my brother being sick, it has helped bring my family together making us closer, looking to one another for support,” she said. “I believe everything happens for a reason and in life you just have to take it each day at a time. It is the only way I know how to live,” said Garcia.