Wish Book: After chronic illness, San Jose woman seeks help gaining independence

Nearly two decades after she left the Philippines for San Jose, life finally started getting easier for Nerissa Ramirez.

She had worked her way up the assembly line at a Fremont electronics company and bought her first car. At night, she spent time with friends or attended local Jehovah’s Witnesses meetings.

But then she was diagnosed with lupus — a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own organs and tissues — along with kidney disease.

“All of a sudden, I’m fighting with my body,” recalled Ramirez, 52. “It was so hard.”

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – October 12: Nerissa Ramirez tears up while sharing the story of her struggles on Oct. 12, 2021, at her new apartment in San Jose, Calif. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

In the years since that 2012 diagnosis, that fight has slashed Ramirez’s independence down to a fraction of what it once was. After years of working and living alone, her illness forced her to spend most of the past year in a skilled nursing facility, receiving dialysis treatment a grueling four times a week and relying on others for tasks like eating, bathing and going to the bathroom.

It was during that time that she met Tita Das, a case manager with the Silicon Valley Independent Living Center, a nonprofit organization that offers people with disabilities in Santa Clara County a range of free services, such as advocacy, peer counseling and help transitioning from the hospital to independent living.

“I could see that she was very sick,” Das said, “but she has that motivation, that yearning.” Das began mulling over a key question: “What can we get out of her way so her journey can be completed in at least one way?”

To that end, the nonprofit is hoping donations raised through Wish Book can help make Ramirez’s life a bit more comfortable.

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SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – October 12: Tita Das, a case manager with the Silicon Valley Independent Living Center, talks during an interview at Nerissa Ramirez’s apartment in San Jose, Calif., on Oct. 12, 2021. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

Her journey, so far, has been marred by painful setbacks. Within months after she was first diagnosed with lupus, Ramirez’s energy vanished. She was forced to cut her work hours at the electronics company and was so exhausted she could hardly move her hands or get out of bed.

As she suffered from different flare-ups, she bounced between treatments, at one point even going through chemotherapy. One bright spot came in January 2018, when Ramirez finally received American citizenship and made plans to travel home to her home province in the Philippines to reunite with her mother for the first time in 25 years.

Shortly before she arrived, her mother died.

“I never saw her, for how many years?” Ramirez said, covering her face with both hands as tears streamed down her cheeks. “I’m so sad — very, very sad.”

She spent that winter in the Philippines, trying to follow her doctors’ advice to remain stress-free and enjoy the warm weather. …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News

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