“Thanks to God I still am alive. Because that kind of surgery, when I was at the hospital, many people die from the same surgery,” he said. “I was blessed; not lucky, blessed.”
Sanchez learned he faced a 90 percent risk of dying.
Sanchez turned this 10 percent chance of living into an opportunity to complete the English as a Second Language program at MHCC and the accounting assistant program, from which he will graduate in March.
“They told me I can die or live, but they never told me I will be paralyzed from the left side,” he said. After surgery, “they told me, ‘Can you move your right hand?’ so I move my hand. They told me, ‘Move your left hand,’ and I said, ‘I can’t.’ ”
Sanchez spent three months in the hospital and several months in a wheelchair before beginning to walk with a cane. After three years of exercise and physical therapy, he slowly regained mobility.
“I used to hate the people who watched me in the wheelchair and (would) say, ‘Oh, you broke your leg!’ I don’t wanna tell them anything about it, so I just say, ‘Oh yeah,’ just like that.”
Today, he walks with only an ankle brace for assistance. Only one hand is stiff. “My left hand is still paralyzed. I can move, but I cannot release,” he explained. He cannot grab items.
“The good thing is that… they made a lot of tests about my speech and my memory and they say everything is fine,” Sanchez said.
Before he suffered the aneurysm in 1997, he was a key employee at a silk screen printing shop.
“When I was working, I was the supervisor of the company… I used to work and make money,” he said.
He had previously come north from Mexico at age 16 with a friend, leaving his family behind.
“My plan (was) to come to the United States to work. I never thought to learn English. I never thought it was important,” he said. “Nobody told me to go to school and learn English.
“The main point was to come to work, but my second thought was to visit Disneyland,” he said.
At a doctor’s appointment with his wife, there was an interpreter who had only been in the U.S. for two years, compared to Sanchez’s decade in the States. “How come they learn so fast?” he said he wondered.
In 2011, he enrolled in the ESL program at the MHCC Maywood campus and then began the one-year accounting program.
His advice to other non-English speakers is, “Go to school and learn English. That’s very important. You can work hard, but if you learn English, you’re going to work less and earn more money.”
His wife, Angelica, and four children (age 22, 20, 16, and 13) are his inspiration. “I will demonstrate them that we can do it,” he said.
He went back to Mexico in 1990 for a vacation, and met Angelica there. The two soon married and then he returned to the U.S. to save money to bring her here, which he did about nine months later. They recently celebrated 23 years together.
Sanchez shares his father’s passion, a love for baking. His father owns a bakery in Mexico in which Sanchez worked while growing up. He had a small baking business before going to school at Mt. Hood, and hopes to grow it eventually.
“They told me that (the accounting assistant program) will help me for my own business or to help in (another) business,” he said.
Baking, studying and playing soccer with his kids are among Sanchez’s hobbies. During the summer, he had homework to do, yet his kids wanted to play, resulting in lower grades. By the time finals came around, “I decided to quit the soccer,” he said. He currently has straight A’s and is looking forward to working in the accounting division at a company, perhaps a nonprofit.
Deborah Saari, MHCC Adult Basic Skills and Career Pathways instructor, nominated Sanchez.
“He is a delightful person with a ‘positive plus’ attitude,” Saari wrote. “He is hardworking, never misses a class, and is a wonderful example of what you are looking for in an outstanding student.”