I’m Claudio Araque, am 27 and live with my mother Angela Ramirez. At six, I was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), an incurable and progressive neuromuscular disease that weakens the muscles. Consequently, I became wheelchair inbound and developed significant contractures in the joints; along with a severe scoliosis which was surgically corrected at age 13. Ever since, I began seeing doctors at Muscular Dystrophy Association clinics. At 20, my disease progressed significantly and I developed cardiomyopathy from weaken heart muscle. Later, my respiratory muscles weaken and I began using mechanical ventilation, but last year I began using it continuously. Additionally, I get fed through a gastrostomy tube due to difficulty swallowing. I frequently attend appointments with several specialists.
Despite my disability, I’ve always been determined to further my education. In 2014, I completed my Bachelor of Business Administration in Computer Information Systems from the University of Houston-Downtown graduating with honors. I received the Dean’s Award and the President’s Award. To find better job opportunities, I will begin work towards a Masters degree in the fall. None of my academic accomplishments would have been possible without my mother. She is 70 years old and has been my only caregiver during all these years. We are very close and she is very devoted. She assists me 24/7 with hygiene, tube feeding, medicines, breathing treatments, and transfers etc. She gets little sleep in order to monitor me, position me in bed and suction secretions. As much as she is committed to helping me, time goes by and it only gets much harder her to care for me.
For years, our only transportation has been an unmodified 96 minivan, that constantly has mechanical problems. My mother used her bare strength transferring me to the passenger seat, then setting up a foldable manual ramp for loading my power wheelchair. However, she’s no longer able to do it, as she now has back problems not to mention it hurts me in the process. Lately, we’ve had to ride the long and uncomfortable local bus in order to attend my appointments. My mother has to help guide me in the wheelchair thru bad sidewalks, busy streets and carry all my medical equipment. We really need a vehicle for commuting to medical appointments, university, church, groceries and everywhere in general. I don’t consider myself a hero. In that case my mother is the real heroine.