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Abundio Gomez with his wife Maria and son Luis, 19, at their home in Pahokee. Gomez, the sole provider for a family of four, had a stroke and cannot afford medical care. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)”

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

The Gomez family was living its vision of the American dream.

Nearly 30 years ago, Abundio and Maria Gomez emigrated legally from Mexico to start a new life in the agricultural town of Pahokee, a place that reminded them of their beloved southwestern farming town of Michoacan.

“It’s a great place where you can live quietly,” Maria Gomez said. “We felt like we were at home.”

They had worked, saved money through the years, bought a house they’re fixing up a little at a time, from the tile floors to the new roof, and even bought a 2-year-old car.

Abundio had found work at U.S. Sugar where he worked his way up to tractor operator, a job he was dedicated to even until the day in February of this year when a piercing, debilitating pain shot down the left side of his body. Not wanting to shirk his work — with a wife and two children depending on his sole income at home — he continued working through what doctors would later diagnose a stroke that nearly killed him.

“I thought I might lose my job, so I didn’t say anything,” Abundio said. “So I kept working all day.”

He came home after a full day’s work, took a shower and rested before the left side of his face began to twitch, he could barely stand, and his wife, Maria rushed him to the local hospital where he suffered a second stroke.

And that’s when the American dream began to morph into something of a nightmare.

Abundio spent a month in the hospital, and when he came out, he needed a walker to get around. Intensive physical therapy and expensive medication were his only hope of ever regaining his health. But he did not qualify for Medicaid, and the cost of his medical deductible was $1,400, while his new disability payment added up to a little over $900.

They fell three months behind on their mortgage. They had to turn in their car to the bank. And after three months of physical therapy was all the insurance paid for, Abundio had to stop going. He couldn’t pay for the medicine, either. At this rate, he would never regain his physical strength to return to work.

Plus, Maria has a physical condition that prevents her from working agriculture, the main — and generally only — source of employment in Pahokee. Meanwhile, they have two children, a daughter, Dayaneli, 13, and a son, Luis, 19, who has a scholarship to Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth to study automotive repair.

But Luis may have his dream cut short, as well, if he has to turn down his scholarship to work an entry-level job to help his family. He’s borrowing a oft-broken-down truck from a family member to get to and from school in Lake Worth.

“They were such a success story until he got sick,” said Sergio Palacios, executive director of the Farmworker Coordinating Council of Palm Beach County, who is handling the Gomezes’ case.

“It’s a lot of problems,” Maria Gomez said, “but any little bit of help is big for us.”

His family’s main breadwinner, Abundio Gomez, suffered a stroke that has left him unable to work. His wife, Maria, battles a debilitating condition that doesn’t allow her to take on the agricultural jobs of Pahokee. Their family needs help to pay their monthly bills. They need assistance to purchase food and clothing. They cook at home to save money and their range and dishwasher are not functioning. The home, in general, needs repairs. They require a car to take Abundio to his physical therapy appointments and so Luis can drive to Palm Beach State College, where he has a scholarship. Above all, the family needs the money to pay for Abundio’s physical therapy and medicine the doctors have prescribed.

NOMINATED BY: Farmworker Coordinating Council of Palm Beach County

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Credit: The Palm Beach Post

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