Members of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) share and amplify their stories on the importance of healthcare and paid family leave in Colorado that would include all members of our communities:
Ashly Villa Ortega’s Story
It was seven-years-old when I saw the huge scar that was recently carved into my grandpa’s skin. This keloid parallelogram remains on my grandpa’s right hand to this day. This was how I found out that my grandpa has skin, prostate, and kidney cancer. After this discovery, there were a lot of new and difficult changes in not only my grandpa’s life but for those closest to him as well.
Given that my grandpa needs support in understanding the status, reasons, or next steps in his treatments as he is a monolingual Spanish speaker, my mom took on the responsibility of accompanying him to his appointments to translate. Every time they left to go to the hospital, I would pace back and forth in my grandpa’s room, as I waited for them to return, so I could inquire about what the doctors told him and his newest treatments. Eventually, I no longer had to ask what happened at the doctor’s appointments, because I was the one who accompanied him to translate since my mom could not always get or afford the time off from her job to go with my grandpa.
Although I am glad I have been able to support my family in this way early on in life, I am frustrated at the inequities in our current healthcare system that has forced me to do this. Without access to the paid family and medical leave she needed, my mom, for many years now, has been forced to choose between losing an income that helps her provide for her family and ensuring that her father is able to understand and receive the services he needs to get through his battle with cancer.
No one should be forced to choose between an income and caring for a loved one, and this makes the need for a paid family and medical leave program that much more urgent.Even though my mom had others, like me, to turn to when she could not make it to my grandpa’s appointments, I know that not everyone who is in a situation similar to ours has someone they can rely on for support. No one should be forced to choose between an income and caring for a loved one, and this makes the need for a paid family and medical leave program that much more urgent.
PQ **Please place with Mylaela’s story – no pic – thank you**
Paid family leave is a human right that should be afforded to every person —no matter their job or pay, and no matter their relationship to the person they are caring for.
My mom was in her early 30s when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic and lifelong condition where your immune system mistakenly attacks your joints. Slowly her fingers began to swell and fold in, her elbows throbbing to where she couldn’t wash her own hair. Like many people living with chronic pain, she hardly spoke of it. As a single mom of two kids, there was no time or space for it.
Fast forward twenty years later. My mom had one elbow surgery, countless infusions, and a slew of various treatments —one including needles that were kept in the fridge that she had to insert in her stomach. At just 50 years old the bone in her left knee was dying, to where she could no longer walk. These were the effects of long-term steroid use, medicine she was prescribed to cope with the pain.
On January 30th, doctors drilled three holes into her knee and filled it with bone marrow they took from her hip, in hopes of reviving the bone again. She was not allowed to bear any weight on her left knee for two months, a nightmare only disabled people can fathom. As my mom’s only family member, I had to take care of her.
I am privileged to work at a Reproductive Justice organization that is Latina led and serving, who understand the dynamics of working while caring for a family. I used paid health days to get her to and from her surgery and post-op appointments. I was able to run to the grocery store for her on Friday mornings, my work-from-home day. I cooked, cleaned, and helped bathe her. Then I went home and cooked, cleaned, and bathed myself. When I was tired, I came into the office late and left early. This happened often, and I still received a full paycheck.
Paid family leave is a human right that should be afforded to every person —no matter their job or pay, and no matter their relationship to the person they are caring for. If I did not have the compassion of my employer, I would be choosing between caring for my mom or keeping a job that offers me food, housing, and health insurance. I can not comprehend that decision or what I would have lost in choosing my mom’s care.
My mom and I both feel incredibly lucky. Lucky that if the surgery is successful, she will be able to walk again soon and regain her independence. Lucky that we both kept our jobs and health insurance during the months of recovery we are still in. Lucky that we have each other at all.
I believe all people, particularly those most vulnerable —immigrants, disabled, LGBTQI+, elderly, non-English speaking folks— should be able to receive the care they deserve from those who love them most. It is time for a paid family leave program that is public, accessible, and for all.
The Colorado Organization Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) represents and advocates for all Latinxs communities living in Colorado.
For More Colorado Commentary: WWW.ELSEMANARIOCOLORADO.COM
- New México Officials Urge DHS to End Title 42 - September 24, 2021
- Scholarships Help Latinx Students on the Path to Higher Education - September 24, 2021
- Do Cloth Masks Offer Protection Against Delta Variant? - September 24, 2021