Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Jovie's Story

Jovie is a member of my extended family and an inspiration to me and to many others. Over the Thanksgiving weekend I spoke with him and, though he never boasts about his many accomplishments, I couldn't help but reflect on his incredible path to today. I'm hopeful that one day Jovie's story will be published in the pages of a newspaper or magazine, as it deserves to be, so today I'll only share a nugget of it.

Nearly ten years ago, my brother, David, spent his junior semester abroad in Senegal. When he first arrived, he and several other American students lived with a host family in Dakar. Soon thereafter, David's host-brother, Jovie (I’ve changed his name to protect his privacy), became sick. Within about a month, Jovie’s health deteriorated to the point that he required hospitalization and, without proper care, was given only a short time left to live. The doctors and hospital in Senegal, however, weren't equipped to treat him.

During the semester, Jovie started dating one of the other American students living with his family. Thanks to the unbelievable efforts of both his new girlfriend’s parents and my own parents, all of whom were back in the States, Jovie was flown to the United States and received the medical care he needed. Miracles and persistence combined to make Jovie’s trip possible, from a lucky, last-ditch, midnight phone call to the one official in the State Department who had the authority to overturn the U.S. consulate's decision denying Jovie a visa, to Jovie’s doctors in the States, all of whom donated their services.

Jovie arrived in the States in such poor health that he had to be taken by ambulance from the airport directly to the hospital to undergo surgery. After convalescing in my parents' house for nearly a year, Jovie went to college and completed his bachelor's degree in computer science in two years at a backbreaking pace. The girlfriend he had just started dating when she and her family helped bring him to the States? They maintained a long distance relationship through college. After his graduation, they married and a year later gave birth to a set of twins. Jovie began working in the computer industry, but after several years decided to change careers and pay forward the medical treatment he received here. So, he went to graduate school while still working and taking care of his children. This past year, Jovie completed his nursing degree and today, works as a nurse in a hospital's intensive care unit, using his story to inspire his patients and bring them on the road to recovery. The life that was saved in Jovie has become a beacon of happiness for his family and friends, including myself, and has helped save the lives of others many times over.