A Valentine for a Lawyer

By John Curtin
On February 14, 2013

Today Sonia and Angel stopped by. Four years ago, a tiny little Spanish speaking grandmother came to our offices begging for help. Her daughter, Sonia, had suffered complications during delivery and had bled extensively. Now she was in a coma, her kidneys had failed and she had a raging infection. Worse, the next morning, the hospital was planning to send her to a public hospital — in Honduras.

Sonia was in the USA legally, but in a refugee status that was not eligible for health care. She had lived and worked in the US for 17 years. She has six children, all citizens, including the new baby fighting for its life in the NICU (Angel). But since there was no one to pay for what looked to be permanent care, the hospital wanted to send her to a third world country where she knew no one, because they had socialized medicine (sort of).

We jumped into action and got a temporary restraining order. But the judge insisted on a 20K bond – and Sonia was in a coma with a house in foreclosure. So we started to ask for help — and the response was astonishing. We talked to the press, the Bishop’s aides, the Honduran counsel, the New York Times and just about every Spanish speaking media outfit around. Donations came — from a group of Honduran cleaning ladies at THAT hospital, who raffled off their wedding dresses to raise funds. Help and support came from Chicanos Por La Causa. But mostly, I am proud to say, from my fellow trial lawyers who listened when I begged for help. We raised the 20,000 dollars overnight.

Along with the money, prayers rolled in as well. All over the Valley, we were told that people were praying for Sonia and Angel (who hadn’t been named yet). They weren’t the only ones.  I was in so far over my head I had to get on a ladder to touch bottom. I did not know much about restraining orders or injunctions or immigration law or public benefits law for that matter. (A great immigration lawyer, Mac Nayeri, volunteered to explain basic concepts to me.) I was praying for the wisdom not to make some fundamental error.

We slowed the deportation down, but things looked grim. Even if we could stop the hospital from flying her to Honduras, there was no one to pay for the long term care. The hospital in Honduras had a broken dialysis machine. We faced the family with a harsh choice — did they want Sonia to die in the US — or in Honduras?

That was when the miracle happened.

Sonia woke up. She came out of the coma and her kidneys started to work again. And the infection began to fade. The hospital relented and generously agreed to provide care.  She went home in two weeks with some residuals, but was able to care for her baby, now named Angel.

Sonia and Angel came by today. They are both healthy and happy. They brought flowers and balloons for Valentine’s Day. We hugged and got a little teary. Sonia told me how grateful she was.  She thanked us for helping to save her life and for giving her the chance to be there for Angel. Sonia is back to work now. Angel is four, and very, very shy – but behind her glasses are the most beautiful brown eyes.

Sonia and Angel have no idea how grateful I am. Grateful for the chance to serve a larger cause. Grateful for the chance to make a difference. Grateful for the two or three weeks when I was an instrument in the hands of a merciful and loving Father, and got the opportunity to help fix something that a lawyer who was WAY out of his comfort zone could not possibly fix by himself. Grateful for the help of my partner, Joel, and my associate Anne and the many lawyers and others who stepped up to help when things looked impossible. Grateful for the opportunity.

Grateful to be part of a miracle.

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