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Spotlight On … Caridad Paz
Caridad Paz is a proud Cuban American, who has lived throughout Los Angeles County for many years. A proud mom of three children from her first marriage - daughter Marelyn and sons William and Joe - she met Jimmy Ochoa at a friend's wedding and the two were soon inseparable.
Caridad has always worked hard to support her family. She worked in retail for many years before graduating college. She then became a certified surgical technician through Riverside Community Hospital, and soon after began working in many departments and clinics, including plastic surgery, and in labor and delivery.
Caregiving was a big part of Cardid’s life outside of work. She was the primary support for her father during his battle with cancer until his death in 2000. Then, her youngest son, Joe, was diagnosed with julivene bilateral uveitis and glaucoma. He has spent many years in and out of the hospital, with countless surgeries and chemotherapies, and still struggles with this condition today.
A favorite pastime of Caridad is cooking with her mother and preparing her son’s favorite dishes such as chile relleno, plantains, and arroz con pollo. She also loves sitting at the family table discussing the latest news, playing with the family's dogs, or singing her favorite songs. But Caridad’s greatest passion has always been dancing. She was an avid dancer well known for her quick moves across the dance floor. She was known for often dancing the night away with Jimmy, until the soles of her shoes had holes and her body was drenched in sweat.
In an ironic twist of fate, Caridad’s first symptoms of ALS involved her beloved high heel shoes. “We noticed that she was tripping a lot and couldn’t go up stairs,” shared Jimmy. “Caridad is a person who wears high heels everyday. Even with platforms, she couldn’t keep her footing and had several very serious falls. She had to stop.”
The diagnosis of ALS was finally made in 2019, when Caridad was just 39 years old.
“I have always been a very outgoing person,” said Caridid. “ But this news was so hard to talk about. Even though it changes what we thought our lives would be, we can always look forward. We strive to make life beautiful in the coming of many glorious days together.”
After her diagnosis, Caridad, Jimmy, and Joe moved in with family to have more help with her daily needs. They registered for free services with Golden West Chapter, and her Care Manager, Mika Flanngan, would visit to help Caridid and Jimmy navigate their daily challenges and needs.. Mike learned that it was Caridad’s wish to be able to attend her son’s doctor’s appointments, go to the store and grocery shop with the family, or to go to the park with her son. Unfortunately, due to the progression of the disease, it was difficult and uncomfortable for Caridad to sit upright in a regular car or to ride for a two hour round trip to Loma Linda Medical Center.
Mika helped Caridad in applying for many grants to help with the purchase of a wheelchair accessible van, without any success. Then, on June 15, 2021, the Golden West Chapter received some incredible news. It was Cheryl Tsieprati, whose husband, Ismail, had sadly lost his 50 year battle with ALS in 2020. Cheryl and Ismail were also served by the Golden West Chapter, and were passionate ALS advocates and longtime participants of the Walk to Defeat ALS. Given all of their experiences, Cheryl had decided that she wanted to donate their 1989 Ford Econoline Van to the Chapter to help another family facing ALS in need.
Mika shared the news of this extraordinary gift with Caridad and Jimmy, and they had tears of joy. as she whispered, “Thank you” over and over again to the Chapter. “Now these hopes and dreams of getting to be out in the world can now be a reality,” said Caridad. “I know that my husband will definitely take me out to many wonderful events and I will have a chance to be more active with the ALS community. Thank you, thank you, thank you to the Tsieprati’s and the Golden West Chapter!“ “I want my kids to know that they should always be grateful in life,” said Caridad. “No matter what happens, we need to keep our eyes open to such a wonderful world and people there are.
One of the challenges for people living with ALS and their loved ones is finding resources that are in Spanish. The Golden West Chapter of The ALS Association offers many tools and materials for those affected by ALS who need resources in Spanish as well as stories of families facing ALS. In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, check out our new resource page.