Patient Stories

Guillermo

An act of senseless violence ends with dignity and compassionate care

In August of 2015, the vicious attack of a sleeping homeless man in Boston by two brothers hit news outlets across the country. Fueled by anti-immigration sentiments, the men beat long-time BHCHP patient, Guillermo, 58 years old and  barely 5 feet tall.  Guillermo has been a lawful permanent resident of the United States for many years. Through the kindness of people like you, Guillermo’s story does not end with violence and hatred, but with compassion, healing, dignity, and hope.

Guillermo, who had fallen asleep outside of a local MBTA station after his daily routine of collecting cans for redemption, woke up to the wrath of two men delivering multiple blows to his head, breaking his ribs and finger. They hurled racist remarks and urinated on him. Despite surgery and physical therapy, Guillermo’s finger is permanently damaged and he still lives with chronic pain from his broken ribs. Beyond these physical reminders, he gets very emotional about the incident and wonders why anyone would hurt innocent people who are homeless and vulnerable. Although he finds it difficult to talk about the attack, Guillermo shares his story to advocate for other victims of senseless violence and to show his gratitude for the healing care he received here at BHCHP

Thank you for making it possible for us to care for Guillermo who had nowhere else to look for help.

A slight man, Guillermo’s dark, full hair is peppered with gray and his lined face holds soft brown eyes that reveal a soulful depth and a gentle warmth. Guillermo relocated to the U.S. from Mexico many years ago to pick produce as a migrant farm worker. Moving from state to state during harvest times, he picked fruit and vegetables until he moved to Boston almost 15 years ago to work in construction. Despite these many years of employment, Guillermo has been in and out of homelessness.  For over 10 years, Dr. Jim O’Connell had been caring for Guillermo as part of his Street Team outreach.  Dr. O’Connell remembers Guillermo sleeping on the sidewalks of South Boston next to shopping carts overflowing with cans and bottles collected during hours of exhausting searches through Boston’s streets. This gentle soul never failed to smile, laugh, and thank America for this opportunity to eke out a meager living. In 2010, Guillermo began accessing primary care at our clinic at 780 Albany Street and s seeing BHCHP physician, Dr. Jen Brody. Dr. Brody, who speaks Guillermo’s native Spanish, describes Guillermo as “warm, friendly, and kind” and, like the rest of us, was horrified to hear of his brutal attack. 

Guillermo is fortunate to have his care closely coordinated by BHCHP nurse, Yolanda Starling. After meeting him doing clinical street outreach about four years ago, Yolanda, or “Yoli” to many of her street-dwelling patients, worked hard to engage Guillermo. She provided him with important health information and tracked his vital signs on the streets. She even went so far as to conduct check-in visits in a Vietnamese restaurant whose owners graciously befriended Guillermo.

Even before the grisly attack, last year had already been a particularly difficult one for Guillermo – in February, he was diagnosed with an aggressive prostate cancer, which had metastasized to his lungs and bones causing sharp pain in those areas. Guillermo would use BHCHP’s services only intermittently, often when his chronic pain flared up.  Since the attack and his recuperation, he works together with Dr. Brody to cautiously manage his pain with careful oversight over his pain medication.

After the attack and through the kindness of you, our donors, Guillermo was able to recuperate at our Barbara McInnis House for several months. His case manager here, Erick Diaz, also a Spanish speaker, worked hard to secure a state ID card, a SafeLink phone, transportation for medical appointments, and other essential supports. He smiles when he thinks of Guillermo and fondly remembers him as “funny, loving, and caring…an all-around character.” During his respite stay, Yolanda and Erick also assisted Guillermo in applying for housing, food stamps and other benefits and reached out to the Mexican Consulate to obtain a replacement green card that had been stolen from Guillermo on the streets. Once approved for housing through the Pine Street Inn, Yolanda collaborated with our partners there to ensure that Guillermo was placed in one of their most supportive housing programs, in an area in which he was comfortable and familiar. She still visits him as part of her BHCHP outreach efforts, and one of our nurses conducts regular wellness checks in his studio apartment.

Although he has slowed down since the attack and his cancer treatments, Guillermo still goes out “canning” as much as he can, often walking seven to eight miles in a day. He wants to earn his own income and loves to be outside.  He tends a  garden in a small raised bed at his apartment building. No one can know for sure what his future will hold, but right now, Guillermo is safe, housed, and attending to his health needs. Our supportive healthcare is only possible through the kindness and generosity of donors like you.  We are more thankful than words can say to be able to tell Guillermo’s story that started with senseless violence and ends with compassionate care and healing.

Thank you for making it possible for us to provide the supportive services needed to care for our vulnerable patients, every step of the way, particularly during crises like those Guillermo has faced.